Category Archives: Distance
It seems that every year, by the time I finish the Road2Hope (first Sunday of Nov.), I am so burnt out that I simply can’t be arsed to write up a race report. Even last year when I had a major PB and only ran the half, I simply vegged and my motivation to do a write-up was nowhere to be seen. As such, I still feel obligated to post this (horribly late) for posterity sake.
Road2Hope Marathon – 42.36 km – 03:50 – 5:26/km pace
What a mixed bag this race was.
On the bus ride to the starting area, a chatty dude from Windsor sat down next to me and happily talked away the entire trip. It wasn’t a bad thing, he was quite nice, but one of the last things he said before we left the bus was how much he hated wind while running…I should have seen the foreshadowing but hindsight is 20/20 so…
The first 20km flew by and I stuck pretty closely to the 3:45 pacer until he stopped to use the washroom. Right around that time we hit the significant downhill and I was determined to use it to my advantage, but Murphy did his best to throw a wrench into the works. As we turned onto the Red Hill Parkway, the cold wind coming off Lake Ontario became a massive headwind which negated some of the advantage. I probably pushed too hard on this section trying to bank some time, and when the 3:45 pacer passed me at 33km I was kicking myself for not racing smarter.
I ran a pretty decent race; hitting most of the tangents, fueling well etc., but ultimately I didn’t have enough fitness to hold my position. My right leg (glute, groin, hamstring quad) had been barking since the 15km mark and by the time I reached the mid 30’s I was in some serious pain. My lower back joined in the pain parade as well, but the major contributor was my feet; they were simply aching, and I’m not sure why. My feet hurt so much that I seriously considered taking off my shoes and running barefoot at one point, but quickly realized that was desperation talking. Finally, I knew things were a train wreck when a lady in a puffy winter coat passed me at the 37km mark and I couldn’t catch her…the shame.
This race was still a PB by a couple minutes, but I wasn’t really happy with how I ran it. My mental game was ok, and I thought my fueling was decent, though I felt hungry at the 12km mark, and had finished all my gels etc. by the early 30’s. I thought I had carb loaded effectively the days before the race but something was definitely off.
It’s all in the books now (especially with this significantly delayed race report), time to move onto new challenges.
It’s been most of a week since I did the BPMR. My body seems ready to get back to training, but before I start talking about future goals and training programs, I think it’ll be beneficial to go over some things to improve on for next year (if I decide to do it again…which is “probably”).
Here goes: Things to Improve/Change for Next Year
- Bike Training – Obviously. Tonnes more riding, technical trails and even some spin classes would give me a huge leg-up from this year’s performance.
- Get My Own Bike – I spent a lot of time this spring dicking around with my bike situation. I considered renting a bike through the race but decided against it. I considered buying a new bike but didn’t exactly have the cash at the time. I even considered using my current bike which is a fully rigid Specialized Rock Hopper circa 1993 (It’s purple), but ultimately I was lucky enough to borrow a friend’s swanky new full suspension bike. It handled all the terrain easily, but consistent training on the bike you’re using for the race is probably a good idea…maybe…
- Bike shoes – Speaking of borrowed equipment, guess what came along with the borrowed bike? Borrowed clip-in shoes! They worked pretty well, but apparently (unbeknownst to me) the peddles and shoes were for road riding and I would have had an easier time if I had used proper mountain bike gear. Who knew?
- Bigger transition bags – The race utilizes a 2-bag system for transition areas. Bag “A” & Bag “B” (I’ll slow down for those of you who are struggling to keep up). I used two cloths bags that cinched close with a string/rope that doubles as a shoulder strap. On a positive note, the bags were two different colours so it was easy to differentiate between them, but still quickly identify them as mine. However when it came down to it they were simply too small to fit all the gear necessary. By the end of the race I was clipping my hydration pack to the outside of the bag an through the strings as well. Not ideal. Larger bags, with bigger openings would ease and expedite gear swapping.
- One Hydration Bag? – Most other racers used 1 hydration bag. I didn’t want to lug around any more weight than I had to, so I made up two packs (with all the necessary kit) and swapped them at transitions. I often wondered though, if I could stash the bike tools/pump on the bike or in the transition bag would 1 bag have been easier to use. I’m still on the fence for this one.
- Strength Training – Lunges, squats, deadlifts. One of the reasons my legs were cramping was that they were over-worked. Yes, I was dehydrated, but when my IT band started screaming it gave me some indication of what shape my legs were in. Sure, I felt fine on the run eventually, but it was apparent that the strength training I was doing in May should have been continued into/through July. Also, my lower back was pretty fatigued by the end of the kayak, deadlifts would have stabilized my core, and enhanced my posterior chain. In July, I was paranoid that they strength work would compromise my endurance training…but I think I had it backwards….20/20 hindsight I guess…
- Fuel – I think my food/hydration was pretty good. Yes, I was hungry at points but with the limitations I had (upset stomach at start) I think I did pretty well. A little more solid food and some Gatorade at transition #1 might have helped; mind you I did eat and drink…maybe just not enough.
Have a great weekend all, enjoy the sunshine while it lasts!
Warning: this is LOOOOONNNNGGG
Race night, you never get enough sleep. Even if you get to bed at a decent hour you’re usually tossing and turning with anticipation/anxiety or getting up every hour to pee. If this doesn’t happen to you, consider yourself lucky. This race was no exception.
The day before the race was a busy one with packing up the kids, my race kit, camping gear etc. and trucking off to my folk’s place which is a couple hours away. After a quick lunch and a few instructions for my mom, I was back in the truck and on my way again. Another couple of hours in the truck and I finally rolled into Wiarton ready to check-in. A few last minute bike adjustments, filling of hydration packs, and I was checked-in, race kit in my hand and paranoia in my step. The race was well-organized, and gear drop off was relatively easy even despite going over my plan/gear list elevety billion times.
Eventually my friends from Crossfit Opus showed up, and went to drop off their gear as well. By the time we sat down after all the pre-race shenanigans it was 11:30 and the 3:45am wakeup call was coming fast. The next morning consisted of a rushed breakfast at 4am, before a 4:30 pre-race briefing, then an hour bus ride to Cabot Head Lighthouse and the starting line.
At 6:30 the horn went and we began the first bike leg of our 96km day. The first leg left me a little discouraged, as it became pretty apparent that I hadn’t spent nearly enough time on the bike, and definitely not enough time training on technical trails. I knew my biking would be one of the weak points of my race, but the technical portions of the trail were brutal on me. Also, it didn’t help that for the first hour I had to restrain my effort to avoid throwing up everywhere. A couple sips of water sent my stomach doing backflips, and I immediately jumped into damage control mode. The 40km stage travelled gravel roads for a bit, before jumping onto some logging roads which slowly degrade into a rocky/muddy track left by a tractor pulling trees out of the bush…and then it they got worse. Eventually I gave up on trying to ride everything and simply ran the bike on anything that looked remotely difficult. Eventually the course returned to something resembling an “actual” trail, then we were spit out onto gravel roads again. The last few kms were on pavement as we entered Lionshead where transition #1 was waiting.
Transition #1 was uneventful, and despite feeling the fatigue in my quads (I pushed too hard trying to ride through the harder bike stuff) I started up the first hill excited to catch the guy in front of me, and lose the guy behind me. Unfortunately, by then time I reached the top of that hill my quads had decided they didn’t want to play nice anymore and threatened to revolt completely. I turned into the trailhead, stopped and desperately started to stretch. The runner behind me ran by, and I tried to start running again; this is where my quads started to spasm.
Frustrated, I continued to stretch and (now that my stomach had settled) drink/eat as I considered my options. Eventually my legs settled enough that I could walk, which eventually lead to an easy walk-run, then to run and “walk the hills”, and finally to “I feel awesome, let’s rock this”. My race was back on. The trail at Lionshead is gorgeous and super technical; scrambling over limestone boulders, lots of exposed rock shelves, a descent down to a cobble beach, then an ascent back up the escarpment to more rocky goodness. I repassed the guy who passed me earlier, caught/passed the guy I was chasing at the start of the run and didn’t see either of them again until the finish. SCORE. The only issue I had with the run was regardless of my fueling on the run, I was still in caloric and hydration debt from my stomach issues on the bike. I finished all my water and food about 2/3 of the way into the run, and had a mini-bonk on the last gravel road into transition #2 (the kayak portion).
As I trundled into transition #2 I opened my bag, got my hydration bag out and filled it to capacity. The bottle is only a 750ml, so it didn’t take long to chug the whole thing and fill it again. I instantly felt better, and my legs loved the respite from activity. Now let me take this moment to say how awesome the volunteers were at this race. I know it sound cliché, but the volunteers took my information, offered help when I needed it, but also backed off when I was busy doing something. Plus, one of them had baked peanut butter cookies! A cookie and a few complementary pieces of watermelon and I felt like a champ…I only had one concern….getting into my kayak. I’ve gotten in/out of kayaks hundreds of times, but in my minds-eye I pictured both legs cramping instantly as I sat down, the boat capsizing, hitting my head on a rock and slowly drowning or dropping out with a(nother) head injury (some people I work with have already commented on my suspected head injury when I told them I was doing the race so it’s nothing new).
Fortunately my legs co-operated and I was soon paddling out into the big water of Georgian Bay. The skies were blue, and a favourable tailwind left me with a feeling that things might just be looking up. As I made my way along the shoreline a race marshal’s boat pulled along side and warned me of the 3ft swells and a shoal that came out into the bay a significant distance ahead. Apparently a couple of boats capsized in the waves created by the shoal and wind, when I eventually got there I gave it a wide berth and just kept the paddles moving. As I neared the “end” of the 16km paddle leg I started calculating my times and thought that maybe…just maybe, I might able to crack 9hrs total for the day (best laid plans of mice and men). I rounded the corner into the last bay and was suddenly struck with a wicked, gusting headwind. It was the kind of wind where you take 4 paddle strokes and move ahead 1 stroke’s worth of distance. Additionally, the last bay is deceptively long…as in 5km long. Those last 5 km probably took me as long, or longer than the previous 11km. The effort level was full tilt; if you let off for a second you risked being blown off-course and backwards…and there was no way I wanted to cover that distance twice. I watched as my dream of a 9hr finish vanished in the wind tossed waves, but moreover I just wanted to get out of the damn boat. Eventually I made it in, and despite being worn down, I was in high spirits. The week before the race I had said to a friend “If I can finish the kayak, I can finish the race” and here I was, on the beach, post kayak and with lots of time left to finish the last two segments…all I had to do was survive. A banana, a Cliff Bar, some Gatorade and I was back on my bike, ready to slog out another 20km.
The final 20km bike stage was more of the same, with a few water holes thrown in for good measure. I don’t have an issue with getting dirty, but I really could have gone without submerging my foot as I plowed through (what I can realistically call) Loch Ness (I swear I felt something move in there while I was riding through it). The most notable part of this last leg was when my clip-in shoes decided they were tired and stopped letting my clip into the peddles for about 10km…it wasn’t frustrating at all…(cough). Gravel roads, more logging trails, pastures, pleasant horse paths, and finally back on the road before entering the final transition.
In my haste at transition #2 (run to kayak), I had forgotten to take my socks with me. Instead my adrenaline-hazed brain neatly tucked my socks in my shoes and put them in the transition bag. Now, at the final transition I was finally reunited with my beloved Injinji toe socks (no blisters for this cool cat). Yes, I rode the entire last bike leg sock-less. Luckily the bike shoes didn’t rub too much and I came out mostly unscathed. I quickly dumped everything, jumped into my socks/shoes and was out of transition and onto the final 5km run. The run was a mixed experience. The trail was nice, but for most of the 5km I was having chest pains that limited the effort I could put in. I had the usual aches/pains too; quads, IT band, lower back, etc. but the chest pains gave me some concern.
In the end, I didn’t have a heart attack, and my legs lasted long enough to push me across the line to the resounding finish line cheers of…one person. Everyone else was at the grandstand watching the awards ceremony, while us back-of-the-packers were still rolling in. Guess I’ll have to train harder next time if I want some kudos from the crowd (welcome to my pity party, can I interest you in a beverage?)
10 hours and 7 minutes of solid effort. It wasn’t pretty, but I did it, and I’m happy I did. Will I do it again next year? Probably, we’ll see what life throws at me in the next 8 months. My next goal is the Road2Hope Marathon in November, so after some rest it’ll be time to jump back into the road miles and speedwork.
A couple weeks ago, some friends and I ran the Spring Tough Mudder Toronto, and by all accounts it was pretty awesome.
The morning started out early and unseasonably cold. Our 2hr drive to the parking area gave the day time to warm up but it simply ignored our gesture and kept is cloudy grey demeanor. We boarded buses and were driven 45minutes to the ski hill where the race was held. Quickly and efficiently we grabbed out race packages, changed into our race gear, ditched our bags at bag-check and got our game faces on.
Before I get in to race specifics let me just say that this “race” ran like a well-oiled-machine. The race organizers didn’t cut corners on anything; if you needed it, it was there for you; there was hardly any waiting for ANYTHING, lines were short and quick!
Back to business: At our appointed start time we crossed the Start line threshold and were faced with our first obstacle: a 8ft wall we had to scale. Our team worked well to help each other over, only to find out we really hadn’t started the race yet. About 100 people were jammed into this small corral where a short time later the MC started giving us the pre-race pep talk. There was a lot of “Hoo-Ah”s and the reminder that this wasn’t a race, but a personal challenge. Also, we were encouraged to help our each other whenever/wherever possible. After the national anthem we were off, running down the first section of trail, crossing over top of one of the final obstacles we’d see 3hrs later.
If there were two things that exemplified the day they were mud & hills. We’d had some significant rain in the days leading up to the race, but honestly there was enough water on site that the place would have been a sloppy mess anyway. Since the Toronto event was run at a ski hill the organizers thought it’d be a great idea to have you run/walk up and down the slopes about eleventy-billion times. Say what you want about the obstacles, the hills and continually treacherous footing caused the most pain.
The obstacles were great, and varied enough to hit both your strengths and weaknesses alike. I could have done all of the obstacles on my own, but part of the fun was helping/supporting your teammates when they needed it. Obstacles ranged from climbing over walls (two 15ft walls in a row, and two 8ft walls which leaned toward you significantly giving you no footholds), crawling on your belly through mud with barbwire or wires that delivered electric shocks above you, tunnels underground, tubes which descend into and back out of muddy water, jumping into ice cold water where you have to swim under a board to the other side and climb out (through ice cubes) of, climbing up onto platforms and jumping into deep water or sliding down into a watery mud pit, and even running up a huge skateboarding/snowboarding quarter pipe and trying to reach the top (where your teammates and strangers waited to help haul you up.). I’m sure I’m missing some but you can find a good list of samples here: http://toughmudder.com/obstacles/ The final obstacle (right at the finish line) is called Electroshock Therapy; you walk through a sloppy mud pit where electrically charged wires are hanging down to waist level. Upon arriving our team decided to link arms and walk through all at once….which was an experience…I think I received 5 shocks but it was hard to say for sure…it was an awesome way to finish the day though.
As I said earlier, the weather didn’t exactly co-operate, the day remained cloudy until just before we finished and a cold wind blew pretty much all day. It seemed like every time you started to dry out the course would get you wet again (usually some form of submersion) so you were forced to keep moving to stay warm. Hypothermia was a big concern and one of our more fit teammates had to skip a few obstacles near the end because she could get warm again after being wet. To be honest I was shivering most of the day as well, especially after running through the snow section they made on one of the downhill sections (you slide down a rubber sheet into a huge bank of snow/slush).
I was able to do all the obstacles without issue which I was pretty proud of, but I did have issues with rocks getting lodged under the insoles in my shoes so I had to stop and dislodge those more than once. All in all it was a great day!
Oh…Hey…didn’t see you there.
So, (cough), it’s been a while. I’m just going to drop these here for now…I may be back later but I’m not sure yet. Give them a look and let me know what you think
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages
After much deliberation, consolation, postulation, inspiration, hesitation and perspiration I’ve finally decided on a race plan for Sunday’s Road2Hope half marathon.
Short version: I’m going to shoot for a 1:45
Long version: Go get a coffee this could take a minute to get through….The feedback from my pacing inquiry a few days ago was split 50/50. Half of you suggested I take it easy, then make a push near the end if I was feeling good, the other half called me out and told me to go for it. Essentially, it came down to my gut. When I decided to actually RACE this half (instead of merely running it) the idea was to see what I was capable of; to dig deep, to push my limits and leave everything out on the course. To do this I can’t just back away from a time that scares me, it’s time to step up.
With that being said, it’s time to set the definitive list:
A – 1:45 (5:00 min/km)
B – 1:50 (5:15min/km)
C – 1:52:30 (My current HM best although it is from 2008)
D – Don’t poop myself (always a plus, stolen from Claire)
OK, maybe it wasn’t that long, but at least now you have a coffee: you’re welcome 😉
As with any race prediction/result; If I hit my goal I’ll do a happy dance, and if I don’t it makes for good blog material.
Wish me luck!
Looks like this year’s Road2Hope race weekend in Hamilton is quickly approaching, and I should probably talk about it since it’s become a yearly tradition for me. To be honest, the race has kind of snuck up on me. My training has been pretty good despite (or maybe “because of”) using a lighter training plan and incorporating more rest & cross training. Regardless, I’m feeling pretty good and looking forward to race day.
For the past two weeks I’ve had a friend of my wife join me for my long runs, she’s in great shape but mostly focuses on short-medium distances. She’s MUCH faster than me but has no experience over the long haul so it’s been mutually beneficial (she pushes me, I keep her even-keeled for the long run). She’s never run anything longer than a 10km race and even our longest training run (12.4km) is well short of a half marathon, but she’s decided that she wants to run the half marathon this weekend with me despite all this. Unfortunately, there’s a problem: I told her that I wanted to run at a steady 5:15/km pace, which I THOUGHT was a 1:45 half marathon…unfortunately it’s not. It’s actually a 1:50 half marathon pace. Not a big deal right? Welllll…after finding my mistake (math was never my strong suit) apparently she’s still married to the idea of a 1:45 race. It’s more aligned with the pace she’s used to training at so I see where she’s coming from, but I’m not so sure. Moreover, I’m not sure if I’m reluctant to jump on the faster pace because I’m scared to push through/hard or because I’m trying to be responsible veteran racer and trying to keep us both from blowing up.
We’ve had some great paces on our training runs and I’m right on the cusp of making the move to the faster race pace in my own right, but right now I’m in limbo. SO: Do I push for the faster pace and hope for the best or hang my hat on the race plan I setup 2 months ago when I didn’t know how I’d feel on race day?
What would you do?
There’s been a lot of buzz around the New York Times article called: The Honorable Clan of the Long-Distance Runner
Amby Burfoot and George A. Hirsch’s article discusses the feelings and philosophy behind those of us who call ourselves runners, and the revulsion that accompanies events of cheating (or misrepresentation) in our beloved sport.
We have rarely encountered tales like Litton’s and Ryan’s. For true distance runners, to lie about time or distance is to lie to ourselves, to diminish the importance of the many sacrifices we make to reach the starting line. Focus and discipline form the core of a runner’s being; they are what make us put on a reflective vest and run six miles into the sleet at 6 on a dark winter morning.
If you have a few minutes, give the article a read and let me know what you think in the comments below.
A little while ago we discussed hydration and nutrition; what to eat and when, and the pluses/minuses of each option. So now that you’ve got your hydration/nutrition dialed-in how exactly do you carry all that crap for hours of pavement pounding?
Part 3 – How do I Carry It All?
Hydration transportation can be categorized into 4 basic types: Single large waist belt bottle, multiple small waist belt bottles, handheld bottle, aid station.
Waist belt bottles are certainly the most popular choice for long distance road runners. They are easy to access and (for the most part) pretty comfortable. The main difference is how/where the bottles are spread around your belt area:
Single Bottle – A single bottle is almost exclusively carried on the lower back where it’s still accessible yet completely out of the way. Within this type of belt/bottle there are two subtypes: A belt where the bottle sits straight up-and-down, or a belt where the bottle rides at a 30 degree angle.
Many people use these as the belts also offer pockets etc. for nutrition (we’ll get to this shortly) & gear and there is less clutter to deal with (compared to the multi-bottle belts). My personal opinion is to give these a pass. After my first run with one of these I had a huge bruise on my spine/lower back from the lid of the bottle continually hitting me as I ran. No matter how much I tightened the belt I couldn’t stop it from bouncing. You can rotate the belt to one side to avoid this, however then you have to deal with an external asymmetry affecting your stride.
Multi-Bottles – The multi-bottle belts are another popular option, as they spread the weight of your hydration around your body thus keeping your center of gravity unaffected (…mostly).
Occasionally referred to as “the travelling buffet”, you simply have your load split up and spread around. One advantage this provides is the ability to specialize your hydration options. Want a bottle of sports drink and a bottle of water? Go to it! Most often these come in 2 & 4 bottle options, but with additional/replacement bottle options you could potentially have as many or as few as you’d like. At first use (with a 4) I didn’t like how the bottles interfered with my arm swing, so I switched to a 2 bottle belt and haven’t looked back.
Whether you decide to go with a single or multiple bottles waist belt option, there is a one issue that both these options cause; extra pressure on your pelvis/lower back. It took me a long tome to get used to hauling that sloshing weight around my midsection, my lower back was continually sore after long runs, and I can see how this might REALLY bother some people.
Handheld – Another option that is growing in popularity, especially with trail runners, is the handheld bottle. This technique has grown out of simply carrying a squirt bottle in your hand to specialty bottles with filters and special carrying cases. The most popular options I’ve seen lately are bottles like these:
Ergonomic bottle straps with an external pocket for your gels/keys/ninja stars. Carrying a bottle can make your arms sore if you aren’t used to it, but I’ve always appreciated the freedom to switch hands/position whenever necessary.
Aid Stations – For races, I’ve started relying on aid stations for my hydration. You have to schedule your nutrition intake a little more rigidly, but being free from the extra clutter is well worth it for me.
And what about your nutrition choices? How are you supposed to haul those around? Unless you are dependent on a four slices of pizza, most of the bottle carrying options should be able to help you out. Almost every belt/handheld bottle holder has some sort of zippered pocket(s) to hold your extra stuff. It’s up to you to figure out how much space you are going to need; 1 gel? 2 packages of chews? 15 various packages of cookies/crackers/pretzels/ham sandwich? Do your research, try things on, take your favourite in-race meal and try jamming it in there.
Another consideration is a Gel Flask. Gel flasks look a lot like the bottles carried in the multi-bottle belts. These are used as liquid calorie dispensers. Some people have trouble choking down sticky gels, so by added water to the mix they can get the calories down without risking the gag reflex/projectile vomiting. A friend of mine makes his own gel and swears by these flasks, but I’ve never used one myself.
One option not a lot of people use, but I’ve had pretty good success with is pockets. Yep, those things that come with your shorts (athletic shorts not running shorts). The last few races I’ve done, I’ve thrown my Clif Bloks in my pocket and off I went. No fuss, just easy. It’s not for everyone, but it works for me.
There are other options like Nathan or Camelback hydration packs, but these aren’t seen very much at road races, sure you can bring one if you want, it’s just not common. More often these are used at trail races or ultra-marathons where more fluid and storage for nutrition is needed. I used one on my Impromptu Adventure Run and I was certainly glad to have that much water with me (not to mention room for a light, granola bar and $3.52 in change (what?..it’s my emergency fund)
Anyway, I think that’s enough for now, if you have any more specific topics that you’d like to hear about, or specific questions just ask in the comments.