31 May 2013

wired for speed!

this week marks a couple of firsts with regard to training:  

  • it's my first week working with my coach's prescribed schedule
  • it's my first series of runs using the garmin forerunner 305.

i'm really taking to this whole coaching thing - it has a ton to do with my coach and his attitude and encouragement, and in some small way is all about simply having a coach who's accessible.  just two days ago i was able to get together with my coach to run track intervals - and while knowing the plan was critical, what was of even more benefit and value to me was having him there to encourage me with "you're bang on" and "one more lap".  honestly, i felt like i was running for more than just myself. 

as for the garmin 305, so far the review is mixed - in part because i'm still getting the hang of this watch.  i'm not 100% sure that i'm settled on my data field settings (you have at least three screens that you can configure with multiple data readouts - from pace to distance to heartrate and beyond), even after having read several other users' preferred arrangements.  also, the pace alert (a feature that i've been anxious to use) may or may not be working well - i'll need a few more tempo runs under my belt with the 305 before i can say for sure.  and finally the garmin GPS threw me off when running my track intervals this week, beeping the 1km alert when i hadn't quite fully completed the 2-1/2 laps (there's a great article here that compares the performance of various GPS timepieces in varying run conditions).  so it wanted to fool me into letting up before i should have, and wound up telling me that i was booking it faster than i actually was.

however, all that being said, it helped me to have a solid, consistent tempo run yesterday - and i love crunching all the data that it spits out.  the readout size is great, and i haven't found the size of the unit to be obtrusive (although it reminds me of the casio wristwatch calculators from back in the day).

so it's still a great add to my training regime, and i'm sure that i'll get to tweaking it to just how it can be of the most help to me.


24 May 2013

and miles (less) to go before i sleep ...

now i feel like i'm really getting serious about marathon training.

i managed to get my hot little hands on a garmin 305 from a friend of mine who has apparently semi-retired from running due to injury.  as much as i hate to think that he's given up on it, i'm happy to put this piece of technology to good use:

the inaugural run with my new GPS-enabled watch was this morning, and it was very helpful to be working with the data and beeps that it was sending my way.  now that i have a bit of a baseline in terms of how it measures my performance, we'll have to see how other training runs compare to today's workout.

i let my coach know (to his pleasure) that i'm now the proud owner of this piece of running technology, and he provided me with the first week's training plan that i can now program into it.  i recall that from our first conversation that he'd said that he managed to run his sub-3 hour marathon on a training regimen that topped out at 95 kilometres in a week, so i didn't expect week one to be a backbreaker ... but yesterday he let me know that his training plan for getting him to boston had a max mileage of 75 km in a week.

the training cycle that i just came off of was 75 km before breakfast.

ok, not really ... but it did top out at 114 km in one week.

i know that i did not train as smart as i could have over the last five months - which is why i decided to align myself with my coach.  and we established that i would have to trust him in this relationship - which i do.

i'm just wondering how shifting down gears by some 40 km will work out for me.

have you had any experience in fluctuating mileage over training cycles?  and not just in terms of adding more, but reducing?  i'd love to hear about it (if only to allay my own unspoken fears)!

22 May 2013

an expression in compression - Lunatik Athletiks gear review

several years ago i managed to mess up my achilles tendon while playing squash with a friend.  after a bit of a gong show in getting it finally (and properly) diagnosed as a complete rupture, i had it surgically repaired (thanks to a fantastic orthpedic surgeon, dr. john o'sullivan).  and it was because of this surgery that i was first introduced to compression socks - primarily as a means of preventing the formation of a blood clot when i had to hop a flight to atlanta while still in a fibreglass cast.

since then i've worn those medical-grade oh-so-sexy compression stockings (20-25 mmHG) in rotation as part of my running gear - having heard and read that compression apparel can aid in reducing muscle fatigue and increasing circulation.  while the jury is still out on whether or not it can be definitively and scientifically concluded that compression socks help athletic performance or recovery, the consensus is that they certainly don't hurt.

when i found out that someone who i used to work with at Nike Canada had become an entrepreneur and started her own compression apparel company, i was intrigued.  and then when i saw their website (www.lunatikathletiks.com) i knew that this was gear that i had to try out - and fortunately kelly (the president) remembered me and was gracious enough to comp out a pair of their men's "velocious" socks and "edge" calf sleeves for testing and review.

as you can see from my last post and from the picture below, i enjoyed playing with the colour combos in putting these ensemble pieces through their paces.

here are my impressions from the Lunatik Athletiks compression wear:

one final thought:  one of my running partners is dealing with calf tightness and plantar fasciitis, and i have given him the "edge" sleeves to try in hopes that it might help.  i'll get his review after he puts a few runs in them.

DISCLAIMER:  these socks and sleeves were provided for free by Lunatik Athletiks for review.  the opinions and fashion sense expressed are my own.


17 May 2013

running outfit du jour

this morning's colourful kit included the first test run of my new compression socks courtesy of Lunatik Athletiks.  a more detailed review of this cool piece of gear to come ...

14 May 2013

put me in coach - i'm ready to play ...

earlier today i had a great conversation with a person who just might be the coach for me.

(says the guy who usually likes to try to figure things out on his own)

after a brief conversation at a local Tim Horton's, i felt incredibly encouraged about how close i am to hitting my target of a Boston Qualifying time (3h15m for my age group).  and if i really believe my would-be coach, based on what's he's already researched on my training and performance history, he wouldn't be surprised to see me push closer to 3:10.

now, i'm not one who easily falls for sunshine being blown my way.  and if i read this guy correctly, he's not the kind of person to do that.  put that together with just the few pieces of recommended training tweaks that he shared, and honestly i'm starting to think that 3:10 is not out of reach.

but it's funny how conversations can dovetail as well ... i was chatting on facebook with my pal stan about training plans, heart rate monitoring and GPS watches, and he mentioned that maybe a GPS watch should maybe be on my father's day, birthday or christmas wish list.  well, doesn't my coach (let's just call him that for now) say that probably the first thing that i should do is get myself a GPS watch.

i'm not a real early-adopter when it comes to buying technology.  maybe it's because i try my best to keep my materialistic tendencies at bay - so to this point i've been using any decent digital timepieces that i could find at the local thrift stores, except for my last splurge of $11.95 on this baby on clearance:
i gotta say that it's served me well through two marathon training cycles and races - but having heard of the benefits that a true GPS/running timepiece can bring to my tempo runs and speedwork, i'm thinking that it may be time to train smarter (not cheaper).  so now i'm in the market for a garmin 305 or the like.

(see ... i'm still trying to spend as little moola as possible by going old school)

got any thoughts about garmins or other GPS-enabled devices that have made a difference to your running?  i'd love to hear about it - leave a comment!


09 May 2013

mississauga marathon 2013 - race report

i simply can't start out this race report without a series of thank-yous.
  • to my family, who have been full of understanding (for this madness called training) and my biggest cheering squad
  • to my intentional motivators and training partners:  trevor morgan, mike st. john and stan ong
  • to the hansons marathon training plan
  • to my friend sarah flemming who got me onto this running thing in the first place (back in 2010)
  • to all my facebook friends who have encouraged and rooted for me throughout this particular leg of the journey.
now to the bottom line - two little letters summarize this race experience:  


perhaps not the two letters that i would like to have headline this report (and for those who would otherwise not know, those preferred letters would be BQ), but i will gladly take them.

now for a quick rundown of the weekend's happenings ...

the expo

kind of a non-report here, as the expo for the mississauga marathon is, well, functional.  it serves its purpose as the point for the race kit pick-up, various sponsor and vendor booths, and opportunities for promo teams from other races to try to pique some interest.

that said, the three times that i've attended it it has been staffed very well (kudos to who knows how many volunteers) and run quite efficiently.  i managed to get in, pick up my kit and trevor's (without any hassle whatsoever), purchase some gels on 'race-special' deal, and clear out in a matter of 12 minutes.  the only negative comment to share was the distinctly vomit-like smell hovering around the end of the directional pathway through the expo. 

race morning
trevor and i were commuting down to the race together (about a 60 min. drive), and it takes about 25 min. to get to his place so i woke up at 4am after a fitful night's sleep (which was to be expected).  after a quick shower, breakfast ensued - peanut butter and chia seed bagel, banana, and water.  i loaded up an extra banana for the ride, as well as the complimentary nutrition bar from the expo goody bag and my powerade-beet juice concoction.  bib was pinned on the singlet - headband, gloves, and throwaway sweatshirt were packed - timing chip affixed to my skechers gobionics.  green light go.

trevor and i made it to the start area close to 6:30am - exactly according to plan, giving us a good hour to make full use of the facilities (at least twice) and settle into the chute before the 7:30am start.  i find that the hour before is perfect for me to get into the right zone - enough but not too much nervous energy, wander around and try to pick out the triathletes, the first-timers, the (obvious this year) boston runners, and the odd person that i would know but not have anticipated seeing at the race.

in the chute, i managed to locate and introduce myself to the 3:15 pacer (peter - or as he happily announced, "peter rabbit") with my usual "i'll try to stick with you as long as i can".  during this time trevor was warming up with strides alongside the chute but on the other side of the barricade, and as all the racers started to cram in shoulder-to-shoulder i feared that we'd become lost to one another and would somehow have to try to relocate during the first kilometre, but he found me just prior to the national anthem.

a quick point here - i'd noted to trevor that one of my favourite moments of the race start was the singing of the national anthem by a local celebrity, actor michael burgess.  he'd starred as jean valjean in the long-running toronto production of les miserables.  having seen him in that performance four times in the 1990s, his voice still sends shivers up and down my spine.  well, this year for reasons unknown to me they had a youth choir sing the national anthem - and while they did an excellent job, it just wasn't michael burgess.  modest letdown.

first half
trevor had mapped out a pacing strategy that accounted for the overall time goal, congestion at the start, and major elevation changes along the course.  trusting his detail-oriented mind, i watched 'peter rabbit' chug on into the distance over the first km wondering if we'd ever make up that ground.  but consistently through the first stretch i heard trevor say "we're right on target", which gave me confidence.

i took nearly the same approach to aid stations as in previous marathons - choosing to walk for a 5-8 second break at each of them. the difference this time was that i decided to grab my drink on the run and then slow down once past the tables to avoid causing any bang ups.  this was my first opportunity to practice this technique for nabbing drink cups on the run, which seemed to work well.

it only took about 6km for trevor and i catch back up to the 3:15 pack, and without any real noticeable increase in effort.  the pace was well within the comfortable range, trevor was consistently telling me "we're 45/60/90 sec. ahead" and regularly reminding when to take a gel.  the plan was working out marvelously.

second half
all the way up to the 31km point trevor and i were consistently ahead of the target 3:15 mark.  i was pleased as punch to have had trevor stick with me through to this distance, as he'd not trained intentionally for a marathon and only surmised being able to pace me through the first half.  but at 31k he knew that it was time to separate, and so he left me with these parting words:  "keep at this pace and you'll have your BQ".

it must have been a curse of sorts.

let me just reiterate what a great job of prep trevor did for me.  from scoping out all the details to gel intake intervals to printing off a paceband, he'd set me up to win.

did you read that?

printing off a paceband.

the one that i left in my sweatshirt pocket.

the sweatshirt that i took off and left in the starting chute.

so from 31k onward, i tried to 'go by feel' at keeping the pace that i'd so comfortably held up to that point.  except that i didn't have the benefit of trevor's consistent reassurance that we were on track.  and what's worse is that when i checked my watch at 35k and saw 2:42, i figured that i could still run 5 min. kilometres and finish well within my 3:15 goal.

math was never my strong suit.  but here, it was made worse by a form of mental bonking.

panic set in when i checked my watch again at 41k and read 3:12.  clearly my calculations originated in the nether realms and now i had to somehow try to bust out 1200m in 3 min. - which was plainly not going to happen.  still, i tried to channel my inner yuki kawauchi and just turned on whatever afterburners i had, grit my teeth and went for it.

i knew that i'd stepped up my output because all the blood was rushing away from my brain and toward the larger muscle groups.  my face was all tingly and a lightheadedness seeped in, but my stride was stretching out and my leg turnover increasing.  it was a good way to finish.

final result:  3:18:30 (gun), 3:18:05 (chip)

post race

i felt quite good crossing the finish line - physically i was spent but upright with no muscles seizing.  while still missing my BQ by about 3 min., i'd posted a personal best by 10 seconds and improved over the same race last year by 6 min.

trevor crossed the line at 3:34:35 - a great job considering he really hadn't trained for the marathon, and had blisters at 5k and muscle spasms for the final 10k.  we spent a good half hour at the medical tent making sure that he got patched up to walk to the shuttle buses back to the car.

when i got home, there was a congratulatory banner waiting for me (although the wind had taken it off of its original location on the garage door):

final thoughts

  • i think that i had it in me to hit the 3:15, and i almost ran to my potential at this race.   i was modestly impressed with the results of the hansons marathon training plan, but am considering going back to a modified 'ryan hall' plan for the erie marathon in september.
  • jury's out as to whether or not the beet juice had any real impact - but it certainly didn't hurt me none!
  • very pleased with the skechers gobionic as a race day shoe!  they did exactly what they should have done - i never had to think about my feet once, and i did not notice them the entire race long.  i will say though that i feel like i enjoyed wearing the merrell road gloves (v1) more during the hamilton road2hope marathon, and probably still hold them up as my favourite shoe in which to train.
so it's recovery time - no running this week until saturday, and then easing back into things before firing it up in two weeks' time to start getting ready for the next race.  as much as i need the time off, this not running thing is driving me crazy.


04 May 2013

'twas the night before mississauga ...

the training cycle is complete.  six days a week since dec. 27, 2012 courtesy of the hansons marathon training plan.

no missed runs.

no shortened mileage.

no reduced intensities.

no regrets.

see you at the finish line.

01 May 2013

a running film to watch for: tRANscend

i'm suspecting that taper madness has set in ... so i'm trying to distract myself from all things running.

um, impossible.

so let's indulge.

my friend, training partner and volunteer pacer at this weekend's mississauga marathon trevor told me about a film that his friend is making.  it involves documenting some of the greatest distance runners in the world today and providing insight into what motivates them and inspires them to test the limits of human endurance and performance.

when he noted that his friend got to interview ryan hall recently, i definitely perked up to pay attention.

so the film is called tRANscend (find it on Facebook too), and the who's who list of appearances in the movie is quite impressive:
  • Wesley Korir 
  • Zane Robertson 
  • Jake Robertson 
  • Alicia Shay 
  • Mo Farah 
  • Haile Gebrselassie 
  • Kenenisa Bekele 
  • Tirunesh Dibaba 
  • Tiki Gelana 
  • Reid Coolsaet 
  • Scott Overall 
  • Cam Levins 
  • Ryan Hall
  • Malcolm Gladwell (author) 
  • Brother Colm O’Connell (coach) 
  • Renato Canova (coach)
there are definitely some great running documentaries out there already - and i'm already looking forward to the release of Spirit of the Marathon II (slated for initial showing this june), but tRANscend will be a terrific window into the mind, heart and soul of some of the world's finest marathoning talents.

whether you're a runner, someone looking for inspiration or a supporter of independent filmmaking, i encourage you to check out and support tRANscend.  i'm confident that it is worth your while.