Sunday, May 31, 2009

Shaughnessy 8 km Race Report

A beautiful morning to race!

I was fourth today, and with no money on the line, I was not too disappointed with that result. I have trained hard the past 3 weeks and thus was not anticipating tearing up the asphalt. Ryan MacKenzie won the race, followed by a Saucony runner then Ryan Day. I would have liked to have beaten Day but sometimes the engine does not hit maximum output.

Going into this race I was warned that the course is quite hilly and slow. Coming from the East Coast one would expect me to be unable to run hills, but I found this course today to be just right! I like hilly loop courses because it breaks up the monotony of a race. When my mind begins to wander or I start thinking 'wow this is tough' I either crest a hill or take another left turn. The turning and the hills make the race much more engaging for me. For all the mountains in BC the races are all super flat.

My first kilometer was slow (3:15ish) and felt that slow. I was running on Day's shoulder which was what I had planned on running. Once we got to the 800 meter mark someone lit a fire under his shoes because he took off. I was alone from this point until the end of the race. I could see Day in the distance and there was no one behind me. To be honest the race turned into a glorified hard tempo run. I pushed myself as hard as I could but not overly crazy. I certainly did not go to that 'special place' of hurt. I was happy I was comped into the race because in many ways it was not that much of a race for me. I crossed the line in 25:57 or something like that (my watch says 26.00:69, ha ha, 69).

The run was good but not great. It was exactly what I wanted it to be. I felt like I was working hard but finished with enough energy to have a good cool down with some drills and strides. The best part of the race is that I had NO pain in either of my feet, left knee or right shin. I did not have any pain on warm up or cool down or drills either which is huge. I have been working really hard and hardly sleeping so to have a workman's effort today was perfect. And the best thing about finishing fourth is that I did not have to hang around for the awards. Instead I took the Zipcar to Wreck Beach for my first trip of the summer. I think that will be my new recovery routine. Wreck Beach with a beer and a special recovery cookie after a hard run, what could be better then that?

Happy Training!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Great Perspective.

The day before a race.

I have had my lucky meal, pizza. I have done my drills and a light workout to get the gears going. I have iced and now I am going to sit down with 'War and Peace' on my balcony to do some reading. Good to go for a 5 star day.

I want to direct you to Kirsten Sweetland's Blog, there is a link on the left. She has amazing talent and a great perspective. Her latest post describes her newly diagnosed stress fracture and also the importance of keeping sport/injury in perspective. I am a runner (reformed triathlete) who is constantly inspired by athletes. When we train together we grow together and when one of us falls there is someone there to help us up. Sport is not life but sport teaches us how to live life.

What I have learned, I have learned through sport. Long live sport.

If you want to be inspired by a race watch Paula Radcliffe win her first Cross Country World Championships (2001, Ostend Belgium). If you want to be inspired by a person read her book.

Happy Training!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Call of the Trails.

I seem to want what I can't have. It is a pattern I have had since childhood. For some reason I have wanted to go skate skiing the last few days. I do not really know why. To be honest, I love summer and I really hate being cold. Winter can be wonderful, my memories of winter as a child are of beautiful crisp winter nights when the stars seem to be close enough to touch, almost like fireflies that one can catch in a jar. The smell of woodsmoke in the air, the sound of snow squeaking underfoot and stopping to hear nothing but silence, occasionally pierced by the howl of a coyote, are memories I hold onto. I believe there is nothing more romantic then walking at night with giant snowflakes gently fumbling from the sky. I suppose it would be nice to somehow have summer here in the city and still be able to ski and enjoy winter up in the mountains. That would be ideal.

This past winter I started skate skiing as a type of cross training. It was a welcome change from the pounding of running and afforded time to spend with friends I do not see enough while training as much as I do now. It was nice to head to Cypress for an evening or to Callahan Valley to ski on the 2010 Olympic Trails. One of the highlights was seeing the giant ski jumps. I also headed up to Silver Star in Vernon BC for a ski weekend. Although I am just a beginner I enjoy skate skiing very much. It is fun and an amazing workout! It is also one of the sports that leads to me bonking. After years and years of running and hundreds of long runs my first ever bonk was skate skiing. Worth every calorie.



Maybe I like skate skiing because of the trails. I love being in the trails whether skiing or running. Time seems to go by faster when flying through the trails. My club mate and friend Simon is a well renowned trail runner. He has been making a very good argument lately to start racing in the trails. This year I am committed to the roads, but as I get older and my body starts to break down on the hard pavement I will hit the trails for some interesting training and fun racing!

Tonight's workout was a double loop of approximately 5km followed by a single loop of 2.5 km. The first loop of the first interval felt easy and controlled and I went under pace time with ease. The second half of the interval felt good but I did feel like I was pushing hard. For much of the loop I could hear my club mate Peter running on my shoulder which was nice, it is great to have someone pushing and to know that people are gunning for me. My only issue was that my pace fell off. My mind may have wandered a bit and at one point I may have been thinking about what I am going to wear to work tomorrow, not good focus. As fast as the first loop was the second loop was at least 6 seconds over pace. For the second interval we were instructed to run around 20 seconds faster then our per lap pace of the first interval. With full recovery I was ready and rearing to hit the last interval hard and make up for my little lapse in concentration. I ran around 15-20 seconds faster for my last interval. I felt like I was running fast and with adequate form. I was up on my toes and was able to drive through my stride. On the uphill section I was able to increase my cadence then stretched out my stride and stayed light and crisp through the flat sections. There was some residual fatigue from my long tempo, I do not think this had a negative effect on my workout.

So now I hope to have a good sleep tonight and a stress free Friday. Saturday will involve some fresh waffles in the morning after a nice sleep in. I will have my typical pre-race strides and drills and a light swim. I am not tapering whatsoever for the race this weekend so it will not be a barometer of my fitness. I want this to be a Workman's effort, a rung on the ladder to a sub 1:10 half marathon!

Happy Training!
video

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Listening to my body with my mind

Tempo Tuesday is here again!

Today I ran my tempo and it was my longest ever, 50 minutes! It felt good, great even, and I think it was mostly because I decided to take yesterday off. I was very tired yesterday and upon arriving home from work I decided to have a nap instead of running. I did not feel like running yesterday and was dreading even a short easy run, so I did not run. It is the wisdom of years of training to know when to take a day off to protect the body and more importantly the mind. If I do not want to run, I do not run.

Today I ran the first 30 minutes of my tempo in Stanley Park and the last 20 minutes on the Sea Wall. My mind was focused and engaged throughout the duration of the tempo. I did not feel like quitting and I was motivated to run hard. I was in the zone, nothing distracting me although I did notice Ryan MacKenzie running his tempo on the Sea Wall too. He even nodded at me. And the weather was nice enough to be able to run without a shirt on, too good! With a good track workout, great long run and a great longest ever tempo I feel like I am back to baseline and ready to race fast this weekend. Well maybe not too fast as the course is supposed to be hilly, and I have run a high number of miles this week, even with the extra day off.

There is new research into the 'zone' and the idea of mastery. It is believed by some researchers that the generation of children that are being raised to be rewarded for merely showing up and doing their 'best' rather then being the best are missing out on the opportunity for mastery of skills. Practicing a skill leads to mastery. The skill can be in most any activity though research suggests individuals benefit most from learning skills that have both a cognitive and physical component. The cognitive aspect can be either learning the meaning of notes on a page and how this corresponds to the placement of fingers and the tone of the note or figuring pace times or positive self talk when running. When a person practices a skill the motor program involved in the skill gets imprinted in the brain so that a once difficult and exhausting activity becomes automatic. Once we have our motor program we are able to focus on fine tuning the activity. For example with running, which is a very natural activity, once a person has the fitness and base ability to run with ease they can then focus on relaxing their shoulders or lengthen their stride. Learning an activity then practicing the skills involved in the activity leads to mastery then the ability to enter 'the zone'.

We are in the zone when completing an activity when we lose sense of time, we are totally consumed by the activity, we lose touch with our environment, and we lose our sense of self consciousness. Today I was in the zone. For the past few weeks I have been practicing running, working on my fitness with long runs, working on my cardiac output with intervals and working on my form with drills and strengthening. Today it all came together and I was (to quote a sport cliche) 'in the zone'. I am very lucky to have this almost every time I run. The final piece of good news. Research also suggests that those individuals who participate in meaningful activities that enable achieving the 'zone' have lower rates of depression, improved blood pressure, better cognition and better health outcomes then sample groups.

I am looking forward to my next journey to the zone!

Happy Training!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Go The Distance.

Today I had another long run in the sun. I was a little frustrated with life this morning and again my long run came to the rescue. On my long run I usually have to tell myself to keep things in check and go slow. I like running, not jogging, and when I hit the trails I want to go fast. Today was no exception. I told myself to go slow for what would turn out to be 16 miles. I ran at a slow and bridled pace while trying to enjoy the scenery and the hundreds of cars whizzing across the Burrard bridge. The thought of running with a bridle, of being constrained into something that is not me, does not make me happy. Adding the feeling of constraint to my preexisting frustration and generally bad mood was making my long run a chore rather then what it should be, pleasure. So I thought "Fuck it!" I opened my stride and ran how I want to, fast. I did not tempo but I did go faster then one is typically supposed to on a long run. Shortly after picking up the pace I ran along side Shu and Katherine. It was a nice treat to run into some nice and fun people and this certainly brightened my mood. Once they reached their destination I was on my own for the remainder of my run.

Luckily my mileage is high enough now that I can run to and through the trails of UBC. The change of scenery at the midpoint of my run was welcome as was the soft earth under foot. The trails also relieved the monotony of the flat crushed gravel trail while enabling me to focus on staying on my feet, avoiding roots, logs and other hazards. I ran home with the wind to my back and once home I felt somewhat better then when I walked out the door. There was not a huge toll on my body and I feel surprisingly physically good.

Those who read this blog (if anyone reads this blog) should know that I tend to be slightly fiery at times and I speak my mind. Generally speaking I am not a fan of how gays are reflected in either the main stream media or the queer media. I have been known to send my opinion to the media outlets who portray the stereotyped gay. I wrote the following letter to Xtra West (gay 'newspaper' type thing) a while ago after being very frustrated with what I saw characterized as gay. The managing editor said she was going to publish it, but I have not seen it, so I will post it here.

Hi Xtra West!

Following is a mostly critical take on your paper BUT I really want to emphasize that I believe what you do with Xtra West is vital to the community and excellent!

I would love to see diversity move beyond what is socially marginalized in hetero-sexist culture to include all the queer of Vancouver. What about the Queers who are adventure racing in the mountains this weekend? What about the Queer swimming a national record and competing at the Canadian Masters Swimming Championships? What about the Queer training for the dream of competing in the Olympics? What about the Queer doing their PhD. in Molecular Biology? To be included in the pages of Xtra West do these individuals have to parade in their underwear or flaunt the latest dildo?
As an athlete I am very discouraged with the presentation of sport in Xtra West. Sport is merely sexualized for the titillation of the reader. Rather than profiling a gay hockey player who has changed the perspective of his straight teammates you chose to print a story making the locker room reminiscent of a bath house. There are thousands of gay athletes in the city, some who train and compete on the national and international stage while making significant contributions to their community. These individuals bring queer to those who may have never interacted with a gay.
When a queer athlete competes in a mostly hetero sport they face many challenges. By training hard and succeeding the queer athlete puts a face to queer, makes queer tangible to the hetero who placed second. One queer athlete leading a predominately hetero team enables the members of that team to understand that being queer is human and furthermore the person who is queer deserves all the rights and freedoms of those who are heterosexual (like marriage and walking in the Westend without fear).
My concern lies for the fourteen year old kid who is involved in sport and has dreams of achieving something more, then realizes he is queer. When he picks up Xtra West to discover what it means to be gay he will see men in underwear, ads for tobacco, late night partying. He will see a narrow and stereotyped queer whose options are limited. He will have two options, quit sport to be gay or climb into the closet to be an athlete. What I would have loved to see as a fourteen year old queer is that I can be gay, I can be a go go boy or I can be a world class athlete. I can participate as a queer in any activity whether on Davie or at a National Road Running Championships. I can be a doctor/molecular biologist/dildo promoter/elite runner. I can be whoever I want.
Thanks for promoting a slice of our community. Please continue to grow and reach towards showcasing our entire community.

Happy Training!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Getting Gone


Oh the glorious weekend!

I awoke this morning to bright light streaming into my bedroom, my alarm set early to volunteer at Lee's Trail Triathlon. I had planned on volunteering in the morning then running my track workout in the afternoon, alone. By the time I arrived at Second Beach Pool there were sufficient volunteers and my services were not needed. I was relieved as this meant I could run with VFAC at Pt. Grey. I watched the first group of triathletes hit the pool then I hit the streets to cycle to Kerrisdale for the workout. I must confess that listening to the pre-race instruction did not make me want to compete, even as the former champion.

I had a good cycle up to the track and arrived a little more early then usual. This gave me an abundance of time to warm up fully and exercise some of Thursday night's effort out of my legs. The two mile jog did not feel great and I was dreading drills. My quads were leaden, my right shin sore and my mind dreading the 12 times 400 workout. After completing my skips, A's and C's I had a weak attempt at some strides and accelerations. I could not get into the motion of running and was unable to run freely. I am uncertain if I am carrying extra stress or exhaustion (yet another terrible sleep...) but I could not get my body to let go. I felt something holding me back, maybe nervousness or dread of another poor effort.

John gave me my pace time, 67 seconds, which is not really that fast, but would be tough with only 100 meters recovery. I ran 67 for my first 400 followed by five repeats at 68. The first six repeats were tight, in a nervous sort of way. Again, as in the warm-up, I was feeling constrained, as if I was unable to let go and let the track take me. My next three repeats were at 67, and I was starting to feel good. The sluggishness was starting to melt away, the burn was starting to feel good and I felt like I was starting to release and let go. I was working for the 67, but not killing myself for the 67. My next two intervals dropped to 66 and I was feeling good, better then I have in a few weeks. My last effort was 64. Seeing '64' on my Timex watch was a relief. The last effort was strenuous, but when I asked my body to go, it did. I was finally able to have my mind and body on the same track. I gave myself a little fist pump and had a good cool down in the bright sunshine.

This afternoon, after a solid hour nap, I hit second beach pool for a good swim workout and some pool running to stretch out. Thankfully the water was significantly warmer then last time I was there. Swimming outside in a 50 meter pool is still a novelty for me. My first run in Vancouver was along the Sea Wall by Second Beach Pool. At that time I was thinking of Vancouver as a dream and seeing Second Beach Pool was concrete motivation to move to the most beautiful city in Canada. That was close to three years ago. How far I have come in that time and how some things remain the same.

Happy Training!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Want To Go

Tonight was VFAC night in Stanley Park. The weather perfect, great running partners, good coach, great atmosphere, disappointing run. I am getting frustrated. Tonight's workout was 2 times 1 mile and 5/8ths or something like that. I was a little nervous for this workout as I was very tired today. Cycling to and from work was a bit of a chore and while at work I was told numerous times that I looked 'very tired'. I should note that I work in a hospital, it is hard to look bad enough to get a comment when one works with sick people and physicians post call. I must have looked like death. Upon arriving home from work I had my pre-run snack then could not resist checking my bed to make sure it was as soft as when I begrudgingly left it this morning. 45 minutes later I woke up, a little groggy but ready to head out for a good workout.

After our warm-up I was given my pace time from John and I was ready to go, ready to get back to business and run hard. The first interval was controlled and felt slightly slower then pace time. I did not want to blow up on this workout and have a positive split. I recovered quickly from the first interval and was ready to hammer a hard second effort. I went as hard as I could on the second interval and felt I was running well, and then the wheels came off. The last km of this loop is up hill. By the time I was 1/4 into the last km I was wishing for a bolt of lightening to take me out of my misery. There was no positive self talk, a weak effort at imagining Ziak or Day between me and the finish line and pain. My hip flexors were saying NO, the quads were saying NO, my feet were screaming NO and my brain was oxygen starved and barely keeping up. I finished the interval thinking I had run pace time, I did not, not close, again.

I am frustrated. For the first time in a while I am discouraged. After finishing the workout I wanted to go off and be alone, get away from everything and have a good hard cry (FYI I don't cry, only on exceptional occasions of great joy or sorrow). I want to be running fast again. I want to go to a workout and suffer and have the splits to back up the effort. I want to hurt but feel like I am flying. So how to approach this? If I look at the workout itself I negative split by around four seconds. Good, that is a positive. I have run more mileage this week then I have in a few months and I am also at my longest tempo. Good, that is a positive. I fought through the pain and still negative split. Good, that is a positive. I was in Stanley Park on a perfect night, with great friends and club mates, a great coach and was running shirtless with a six pack. Good, that is a positive. I was running. Good, good, good. I missed my times. Bad. Seven 'goods' to one 'bad' is an appropriate reality check.

I am very much looking forward to a good sleep tonight and Friday at last. I also have a massage tomorrow. It is difficult to express how much I am looking forward to my massage. My whole body is craving a good manipulation. My back aches, my legs are tired, my rhomboids have been throbbing since lunch and even my masseters were seizing up while eating supper. Tomorrow is also a day off of training. I want to run tomorrow, which is a good sign that I am mentally into the training. It will be nice to have the day to 'rest' (I still have to work).

Happy Training!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Mind Protests

It is Tempo Tuesday!

Today I ran 45 minutes worth of tempo on pace. The first 25 minutes were in the sun speckled trails of Stanley Park with the last 20 minutes on the Sea Wall. I felt good on my warm-up so I decided to try another arrhythmic tempo. I found my choice of trails and climbing up to Brockton Point very difficult and possibly not the wisest decision. At the 15-20 minute mark, while approximately 500 meters from the crest of Brockton Point, I felt like packing it in, turning around and walking home. It is rare that I feel this way during tempo runs. Many times I feel bored or a little distracted but today I had to work through a very tough patch. It was surprising as the last few days my body has been protesting the workouts with my mind totally into pushing and going balls to the walls. Today I was able to push through the quit and finish my tempo.

I also checked my pace time today. Normally I try not to check my pace time while tempo running. I believe I spend too much time on the watch. I do not want to have to hit specific times on my tempo as I do on my other two hard running days. I want to go out, run somewhat hard and not have to worry about pace per km. I also like to take the first 3/4 of the tempo below lactate threshold then slightly build the last 1/4. I like the freedom of running fast. Once on the Sea Wall I checked my time over a kilometer as I was a little concerned I was tired from the quick increase in training. It turned out that I was running pace time, to the second. I was surprised and pleased. Sometimes the internal speedometer seems to be off. A quick check of the watch confirmed that I was going well. I will not make a habit of checking pace times on tempo. This will be the last time check for this session.

So last week I wrote "this is not a music blog", and it isn't, BUT it is my blog and I can do what I want so I am referring to another tune I really like. It is called 'Chicago' and it is by Sufjan Stevens, from the album Illinoise. I downloaded on iTunes! There is an acoustic version on YouTube which is of poor quality. I love, love this song. It tells a story totally opposite of my life (except for "I've made a lot of mistakes", I have made so many mistakes...). I cannot quantify the aspects of the song that moved me except to quote the refrain;

"If I was crying...it was for freedom, from myself and from the land, I've made a lot of mistakes..."

There is an orchestral quality to the tune which creates a rich tone yet does not detract from the sentiment of the lyrics. It is indie rock with what I feel is a mainstream accessibility. Sufjan Stevens writes some really cool stuff that is quite experimental, check it out!.

Happy Training!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Counting Down

I have had a great long weekend and I did not get burned, though the hearth is warm.

Today was an easy run in the morning followed by a swim at Second Beach pool in the afternoon. My morning run was more painful than I initially thought it would be. My extra drills followed by a long run followed by a few too many beer caused a great amount of DOMS and a hangover. It took at least twenty minutes to to stretch out and get rid of some of the junk stored in my tight and smarting legs. By the time I was heading out of the Park on my way home I was lengthening my stride and getting up onto my toes. I am still slightly winded on climbs so not quite back to baseline, but getting close.

I was able to swim a 1600 metre workout outdoors today as well. It was good to get into the pool for a light swim. I have been out of the pool so long that I have lost the tiny bit of strength I had last year. I also do not have a trained feel for the water, I have to rely on the natural feel I picked up as a kid in the backyard pool. Hopefully I will get some feel and strength back, I would like to be able to keep up with my training buddy. It will also be good to put on a little bit of muscle in my upper body as I am looking a little sickly lately.

I am sure many of the readers of this blog are also concerned with the progress of 'operation six pack'. I am pleased to announce that the operation has been successful and I am confident in my new found stomach. It is as good a washboard as I will ever have. The hours of core workouts have paid off. It took ten years of running, cycling, swimming, core workouts, circuit training, whole grains, low fat, and calorie counting to get these abs. I am going to celebrate with a half bowl of whole grain cereal with half cup skim milk.

I am now counting down to my next race and a very busy June. May has been great so far. I have had time to rest, get away from racing and recover from a tough winter race schedule. I am getting excited and fired up to get into the fire and race again. May 31 I will be running the Shaughnessy 8km. The following weekend I am heading to Eugene, Oregon to watch the Nike Prefontaine Classic, heading down after workout of course! Then I have Longest Day 5km, Pride Run, Sandcastle 10 km, Coldplay and to cap it all off Scotia Bank Half Marathon.

I should add that I went to the 'Pumpjack' last night with my roommate. This is a gay gathering place for everyone, but directed more towards those with a preference for bears and leather. I am not a bear and am not into leather (Vanilla is my favorite ice cream). I was surprised to have not a terrible time. The other people at the bar were nice and pleasant and I did not feel judged and I was not called a twink, although one guy told me I looked like Zach Effron. I do not really know if that was a compliment or insult but I will take it as a compliment (I like his hair). This was one of the few times I have been in a gay bar in the past six months. I have been so focused on training I have not hung with random homos, or at least rub shoulders with some of my peeps (OK, so the patrons of the Pumpjack may not really be my 'peeps' per se but it was a good first step to re-entry to gayville). I have also cloistered myself to an extent. I have put up a bit of a wall between me and the homos and have been judging too much. I think I will try to be more mindful and not judge too much, and as much as I have fought this, I am going to try and go out more. I must hit the Odessey at least once before it closes. Hey, I might even get lucky!

Happy Training!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Playing with Fire

Fire is both enticing and terrifying. Fire provides warmth, get too close and it burns. How close can I go before I get burned?

Running is like playing with fire. Every time I go out my door I am playing with fire. Whether out for my Sunday long run or my Saturday Track workout I am taking a risk. The aches and pain I felt when I creaked out of bed this morning might be the warmth of a hard workout or the burn of a new injury. The pain I feel half way through my long run could be a sign I am getting too close to the fire, moving beyond the spot when I am getting warmer, getting stronger. I may be moving into the fire, slowly burning my chances of running faster by running too much. My long run today felt good, warm, with some aches and pains from yesterday's hard effort.

I play with fire in most aspects of my life, as we all do. We are constantly negotiating with the fire we are engaged with, testing it's boundaries, finding where to throw a log or douse with water. In running this can be deciding to run a workout without a fully healed injury. This involves getting very close to fire, getting a full blast of heat, yet can result in the best rewards. My nagging foot injury may be such an example. My left foot has been quite sore for the last month and a half. I have run through the pain and it has been manageable, yet on some runs very hot. There have been workouts in the last few weeks when my foot had some incredible pain and I have been asked if I am limping on a few occasions (of course I denied...). Now my foot pain is gone, thanks to a week of wearing old running shoes to work. I was able to get myself back in shape after Sun Run and being sick, with a minor injury that could have become a very bad injury. The moral of the story: Risk=Reward. I got very close to the fire, I may have even jumped over the fire, but I did not get burned.

Playing with fire has risk at it's core. It burns in many ways. Entering a race I am putting both my body and heart close to the fire. I may finish the race injury free though with a poor effort. I will be able to run the next day with minimal concern physically, though I may be heartbroken for weeks. The burn to the heart may be the most difficult to heal.

The great risks I have taken with my running, the many times I have come close to the fire, flows opposite to how I have protected my heart from the fire of love. I am trying to change this, I am trying to take more risks and live a little more. I am trying to warm up my heart, with the knowledge that I may get burned. How far can I go towards the fire without getting burned but also without burning someone else? If that someone else stokes my fire, despite the fire in their own hearth, how am I to proceed?

I am getting on the billows, I will get fired up. I am hoping to get very hot, without getting burned.

Happy Training!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Relapse?

Saturday is track day. Today's workout was nine times 300m with descending recovery. I was to run 46 seconds per 300 and hold that pace throughout the workout. I was slightly off my times today, as I have been for the past two weeks. The good news; I was below my times on at least two intervals. The bad news; I was over on the remainder. I was able to book a car today and thus was able to complete an extended drill session. Nothing like high knees, A's, B's and C's to feel like a real runner. With the warmer weather, my favorite drill, barefoot running, is also more enjoyable.

Today is the first day of outdoor pool season. I am a reformed triathlete. After finishing running in university I took a break from competitive running to have some fun in triathlon. Since going back to being solely a runner I have not swum or cycled enough to garner mentioning in a blog. Today, with the opening of the outdoor pools, I hit the water for an outdoor workout. In total I swam 1500 meters. Not exceptional, not fast and not in a structured workout, but fun. I have been toying with the idea of returning to triathlon. I will complete the Ironman one day, my decision lies in whether I go to Ironman to compete or to finish. If I want to compete I better start training. If I want to finish, then I can keep this crazy running thing going for another few years.

The reality of my life is that I am single and have no obligations other then an eight to four job. I am also in the prime of my life physically. This is as good as it gets. Running is my love, running gives my life meaning, running gets me out of bed in the morning, running frustrates me then makes me smile, makes me happy and provides a rose colored lens to see the world as a good place. I enjoy the training that triathlon requires and I love that I can spend eight hours on a Saturday training but triathlon takes away from my love of running, makes running harder and heavier. There is no worse feeling then cycling as hard as you can then running. If you ever want to feel heavy and slow, bike then run. I waffle back and forth whether to run or tri, for now I am reformed, stay tuned for a relapse.

Happy Training!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Pack

Tonight we had a fun workout. I am unsure of the actual distances of the workout but the distances get lower over three hard efforts. The first interval starts with a long uphill and finished on minimally undulating terrain with mostly downhill. The next two intervals are shorter and avoid the uphill section. I had a good workout tonight. The uphill sections were tiring and I do not quite feel back to my old strength. I felt my heart rate climb and my breathing/wheezing increase significantly. Once over that hump I was feeling good. The last interval was the best. For the first time in a while I felt like I was moving along, working hard, running as fast as I could but not straining. I felt someone on my shoulder and tried to push the pace but he just held on and pushed me right to the end, it was Brad!

The best part of the workout was the solid pack of five or six guys running together. In some ways it is almost like being back in a university training group, without the inherent competition. In some ways I almost felt like I was back in Fredericton where I started running. For four years I spent Thursday nights in Odell Park, running up to the Arboretum, down the wood chip path and back to the lodge, repeatedly. Coach Tim was always there giving us support. Me, chasing the Stacy twins. All of us, my whole team, friends and competitors.
This is us, UNB Varsity Reds, after winning the AUS Championships in 2001. I will never forget that race and will blog it in the future.

Time for bed!

Happy Training!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Learning to Endure the Rain

It rains in Vancouver. It rains in Vancouver a lot.

I moved to Vancouver on Halloween 2006. It rained and snowed for the following five months followed by an unseasonably cold summer. There was one stretch when it rained everyday for over 21 days. I was not impressed. Luckily I was not running competitively at that time so I did not need to spend hours training in the rain. If it rained I would go to the pool or get on my bike trainer in the living room for a workout. I would run in light rain but tried every method possible to avoid it.

Rain and wind are two weather phenomena that I do not enjoy. Give me heat, humidity and blazing sunshine without a skiff of wind and I am happy. The hotter the better! Living in Vancouver I have had to learn to cope with training in rain and wind without the possibility of heat. I have my light weight rain gear (thanks to MEC and Triathlon Canada), my wet-day trainers and a good dose of motivation. I have also learned something important about the rain, it keeps people indoors.

I can't quite say I love running in the rain but I am starting to enjoy it more. Today will serve as a good example. As I got home from work it was starting to rain. Feeling quite tired after a busy day, I quickly got ready for my run before I had a chance to sit on my luxurious and inviting bed. I did not want to be tempted to see if my pillows were as soft as when I got up this morning (it is always good to check once and while to be sure). I put on my spandex shorts to prevent wet chafe (how romantic...), two t-shirts, arm warmers and my gloves. Out the door I trudged into the wet. I ran the three blocks to the Seawall and hit a different wall, a wall of wind and rain. The weather conditions were cold, wet, windy and generally miserable. Even the ducks were looking at me like I was some type of freak-out weirdo. I made it along the Seawall to Stanley Park when the benefits of running in the rain paid off. The majority of my run was in the trails of the park, approximately four of six miles. I saw two people. In a city of a few million people I ran in one of the most beautiful urban parks in the world and saw two people. I had the mossy ancient cedars, the ducks/swans/beavers (though I am not into beavers), babbling brooks, soft trails, lakes/ponds and wildflowers all to myself. This is when I enjoy running in the rain.

I also have to admit that a good old fashioned thunder shower at the end of a hot long run is wonderful and very romantic (minus the chafing). Rain in general, if there are no chores, is very romantic. It may be hard to appreciate in the city but I can imagine being out in a cabin in the woods, after a hard workout, with only the sound of the raindrops on the roof, a loved one in bed beside, a nice fire crackling to keep the room hot. A nice situation in which to enjoy the rain. I digress with unrealistic romantic notions of fairy tales. The one thing I tell myself when running on days like today, when the rain is cold and harsh, is that these are the days when the guys I will beat during the next race are sitting at home, taking a day off, because of the wretched weather. And besides, we race rain or shine. One needs to train in the rain to win in the rain!

Yesterday was a beautiful day for running. I ran my tempo and was back up to forty minutes. I decided to split my workout between trails and the Sea Wall. I did not want to aggravate my foot so I kept the terrain to a minimum. It was a satisfactory run. It seemed to take me nearly 25 minutes to really warm up. I was not as sluggish as I have been and I believe my body and mind are back into the groove of training.

I got a little surprise in the mail last week. A gold medal from the Sun Run. It turns out I won my age group. I have a guilty confession, I really like getting medals. I am not a huge fan of sitting through age group awards but am thrilled to get the medal. I would trade socks, water bottles or bike lube for a medal (all prizes I have won). It is the uselessness of the medal that makes it so great. The one reason for that useless piece of cheap metal on an ribbon is to recognize my hard work and guts on race day. They range in shape from circles to squares, tear drops to random circles with clear plastic (thanks ITU!), coat of arms to maple leaves. Regardless of the shape or color I love them all. I guess that must be the gay in me, bring on the sparkles!

Happy Training!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Long Run Love

Thank god for long runs!

I had my long run this morning and it was truly a blessing. After my first week back to hard training I was feeling a little melancholy, as is typical. I needed to have a controlled, mostly pain free long run to boost my spirits heading into next week. My run this morning was awesome. Although I am in considerable pain from my bike crash yesterday it did not affect me on the run (only when I abducted my right shoulder). I went nice and slow on the out and then relaxed and let my legs carry me home. With the sun to my face and the wind to my back it was glorious! I did a couple of pick-ups on the way home and my legs felt surprisingly fresh. One pick up in particular was when someone who I passed came up on my shoulder and started racing me. Tres annoying. Luckily I was easily able to take my pace up a gear or two to get back to my much loved long run solitude.

As an aside I posted a new link. ADELE! I absolutely love this song. Written by Bob Dylan it captures potential, longing, waiting. This tune caught me off guard this morning. It captures how I have been feeling recently. There is some banter online regarding who has the better version. I will not pass judgement as I am not a music critic and this is not a music blog. Bob Dylan is a genius. Adele's voice has a rich, deep quality which brings this tune to life. I love them both!

Happy Training!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness II

I should have stayed in bed this morning.

I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. On bright sunny days I usually jump out of bed with a smile on my face ready to conquer the world. Not today. I had a night of restless sleep with a multitude of random and bizarre dreams. I woke up feeling tired and sluggish.

I had planned on taking a Zipcar to workout this morning as a little treat and so I would have a little extra energy to do some extra drills. It turns out that my license expired and I couldn't book a car. Fine, cycling will make me stronger. I went down to the bike room this morning and found my rear brake cable tight as an I.T. Band on a runner, my rear wheel locked in place. With a quick trip back upstairs to get some Allen keys I repaired my brake and was off to the track.

Today's workout was 5 times 800 with a 400 warm-up. This workout was a struggle. I missed all my times by a long shot, won't even mention the times. Luckily the sun was shining brightly so I felt some warmth in my heart from the wonderful rays. There was also great company to run with so that made me pleased to hit the rubber for a workout. I can still blame my less then stellar workout on being sick and having three weeks off including my taper into Sun Run. And on the positive side I had no foot pain during the workout. I was beginning to think maybe today won't be as bad as I was thinking. I was looking forward to a nice ride home in the sunshine and a relaxing afternoon in the West End.

The ride home was quite nice, a little chilly, but nice. I came off of the Burrard Bridge and decided to make the most of my ride by cycling along the Seawall. I was in front of Sunset Beach in the bike lane when up ahead I observed a man on inline skates with a giant backpack. I strongly dislike inline skaters in cycling lanes, they are unpredictable, do not shoulder check and take up a great deal of space. This man was going very slow (as was I by now) and was taking up the whole lane. I slowly moved to pass on the left when he cut in front of me. I yelled 'watch out' (which I have learned is not what one should do, it causes people to stop, turn and look), collided with the guy and went off of my bike (rather went down with my bike, I was clipped in). That hurts. Luckily I have a natural instinct to curl into a ball when in imminent danger so I did not hurt my wrist or break my clavicle.

RANT: The most frustrating thing about the situation was the righteous indignation of the jerk on inline skates. He was some dirtbag weirdo, typical of Vancouver. He was the type of individual who blames their own failures and pathetic situation in life on any one of the following:
  • The Government for not giving him more money so he can sit on his A## and do nothing
  • His parents who never really loved him
  • The school system for not modifying their teaching methods to accommodate for his pubescent partying and drug use.
  • Tobacco Companies for forcing him to smoke
  • McDonald's for making fatty food and hot coffee that burns (coffee should not be hot...)
  • Everyone else because he is always right.
When I politely said that it is customary for an individual to look over their shoulder before moving into a passing lane he merely replied that I should have a bell on my bike and that I was going too fast. I have worked in mental health and thus have quickly learned when a situation is about to escalate and the type of personality that escalates the situation. I felt like yelling at the jerk, telling him to take responsibility for his mistake, to apologize for causing me to fall off of my bike and injure myself. Instead I wished him well, brushed myself off, and went on my way. While I cycled away I wished him shelter, water, food and love. And I do wish him these things.

In reality I assume I know this man, that I have seen his 'type' before and he presents the same as those I have grown to distrust and be wary of. He may be all the things I have mentioned or he may not, irregardless it does not matter. I cannot dwell on the actions of others the same as I cannot dwell on a bad workout or terrible date. Once I am finished this blog I will again wish him well and I will be on my way.

I am anticipating quite a bit of bruising and have some road rash on my arm and leg. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness will become apparent tomorrow morning. I hope I get through my long run. It is now time to ice then enjoy the sunshine.

I am happy I got out of bed this morning. When all is said and done it is the falls that teach us how to get back up, the less then ideal workouts that show no matter how much it hurts or how long it takes it can be done and that sometimes the days that are hard are another type of adventure in life. Every day there is something new to experience. The wise are those who learn from the tough days, file the lesson for later use, and move on. I am learning.

Happy Training!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Favorite Things

Rain drops on roses, whiskers on kittens, 5 times 1000 on crushed gravel trails, these are a few of my favorite things...

Tonight was my favorite workout. 5 times 1 km with descending recovery. I kind of wish this workout was next week when I will be back to 100% after being sick but it is a good workout to start with. John wanted me to run 53's for the workout. I opened in 54 (good!) then 49 (oops), 55, 57, 55. Overall a great workout! I have not been as chipper as usual this week and am still recovering from being sick so I am pleased. It was a good effort though I felt as if I was going as fast as I could without actually going fast. The last three intervals felt sluggish without any snap to my stride. John must have put down some glue on the last km because my feet were totally stuck to the ground. I cannot complain, this was still one of my fastest workouts ever.

I picked up my new favorite magazine the other day, Canadian Running Magazine, too good! I believe this is by far the best running magazine you can buy. It is very current and actually cites evidence in it's reports on everything from training techniques to compression socks to meal ideas. I love that most (if not all) the contributors are runners of varying levels. In the current issue there is a great article by Hillary Stellingwerff on training in Ethiopia. Reading it today on my way home from work made me want to quit work, move to altitude, and run. There is also a comparison of compression socks and a little information on the evidence to support their use. I will have to pick up a pair of Zoot compression socks to go with my old lady socks.

Speaking of socks, I was out for a run yesterday with a friend. An easy 40 minutes in total. It was a good run but with one issue, he was getting checked out and not one person batted an eye at me. I made this complaint to my wise massage therapist one day, that I never get checked out. He quickly pointed out that no one would check me out as I was wearing orange and blue socks (who in their right mind wears orange and blue socks?) I will console myself by looking down at my feet rather then in the mirror, yesterday I was wearing my favorite orange and blue socks.

Happy Training!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Mix up the Tempo

Tempo Tuesday is back!

Today I ran my first tempo since Sun Run. To be honest I do not enjoy tempo that much. They are the one workout that I find tedious. Running on a flat, boring surface at pace for 30 to 60 minutes can be slightly monotonous. Today I decided to mix it up a bit. The key with tempo is to find your pace (or rhythm) then run at that pace for whatever distance or time is prescribed. This is is one of my strengths when running. Ever since I began running I have been known as a rhythm runner. I find my pace, get into my rhythm and go. This talent is also what makes tempo runs incredibly boring. Today I decided to try something different and work on my weaknesses by running a tempo on terrain to destroy my rhythm. I ran 23 minutes in the trails of Stanley Park with the last 7 minutes on the Seawall.

I was not anticipating a good run today after being sick last week. Working yesterday took all my energy and I was really flat on yesterday's easy four miles. The tempo was not bad nor was it that great. I felt weak on the up hills and despite taking the pace down considerably I still felt my heart rate climb and my breathing become slightly short. At one point in the workout I felt nauseous but I am sure that was my body getting used to working hard again. The best part of the workout was when I hit the Seawall. The good thing about the rain as it clears the people off of the Seawall. It was deserted which meant I could run free and clear. As usual, once on the flat, I quickly got into my rhythm and cruised the last 7 minutes. Once completed I had a nice cool down home.

Congratulations to all the VFACers who ran the Vancouver Half and Full Marathon last weekend. I had a blast watching and was very motivated by everyone! I was wishing I was out there until I hit the hill up to Brockton Point. WTF? And Kevin, I did not want to tempt you with the option of a party the weekend of a race. I will have a summer celebration on a weekend when we can all enjoy a few Pimms or Mimosas!

So the training has fired up again. My next race will be the Shaughnessy 8 km on May 31. I hear the course is hilly which will challenge me. I will not be able to run in a rhythm so I will be able to work on my weakness even more. Ultimately I want to run cross country this fall and thus need to figure out how to run without the luxury of a rhythm. The course for Nationals is brutal so any race that can help me experience something similar will be good!

Happy Training!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Rock Solid and Back on Track

I am running again!

After a week of illness and severe gastrointestinal issues I was able to run again today, with no issues, for the first time since last Sunday. That is almost a full week without a good run. This morning's run was an 'easy' run in Stanley Park and on the Sea Wall. I was 'chafing at the bit' to get out and run hard. I was able to keep my energy under check for the first 20 minutes until I hit the Sea Wall at Third Beach. Once on the Sea Wall I let myself go and ran hard. It felt wonderful! I was on my toes, breathing normal, not an ache or pain with a full fluid stride. I was even able to try and run with a longer stride. Although being sick was not fun I really believe my body was sending me a message, time for a mini rest. Today I feel healed in many ways. Totally pain free with enough energy to light a million light bulbs.

Yesterday was also my birthday. I am 31 years old. In running terms I am getting to the end of my improvement years over the shorter distances, when one looks solely at '31'. In reality, as a runner, I am much younger. Most runners of my calibre have been running since their early teens. I ran my first race at the age of 21. So 21 subtract 14 is around 7, so let's just say I still have at least 5 years to go of improvement, or at least that is what I am going to keep telling myself.

Birthdays are interesting occasions. They are a time when we celebrate our birth, of being alive and what has passed in our lives. A birthday party presents an opportunity to be with family and/or friends, a time to be with the people who make our lives better and who we connect with. With the celebration also comes lamentation and self appraisal. In the time leading up to my birthday I tend to think of the past year or two or three (or this year back to childhood, must have been the fever), what I have accomplished, mistakes I have made and what I am thankful for. This is also a nice time to set some goals, look to the future and decide where I want my life to go. I have a few goals for this year 31. I will mention two in particular, I am going to be more open and I am going to take more chances.

This blog is a result of goal one. I am also working on hugging more and making eye contact more. Although with eye contact I need the other person to cooperate. Taking chances will be a little harder to measure. I have been pretty good to take chances in the past. I did move to Vancouver 2 1/2 years ago not knowing a single soul in the city. The chances I want to take are with running and my heart. With respect to running I want to run more aggressively, especially in cross country. I want to try to go to the front and run like hell until I can't run anymore. Hopefully I will make it to the finish line. With my heart, I am going to try to put myself out there more, maybe even walk up to a hot stranger (maybe at a race) and ask him on a date. As I am being more open I will keep you posted on the progress of the the chance taking.

To file under achieving both goals; I had a birthday party last night. It was wonderful and I was very happy to see many of my wonderful friends. My cheeks are still a little sore from smiling so much (insert groan here). I also have my summer drink and it is great! Pimm's Cup! It is a light and refreshing beverage for any occasion but especially while watching Wimbledon or after a hard race on a hot summer day. If you get a chance give it a try!

A question/answer feature might be fun. If you have questions for the running gay simply email them to runninggay@gmail.com. If you have any interesting blog topics email them as well. Some upcoming blogs will discuss annoying habits of others when out running, some unusual running sights and lots of workouts and race reports.

Happy Training!