It’s been a while…

Wow. Over a year since I even looked at this blog. A lot has happened since then. I ran my fall half, decided to do a marathon, trained for the marathon, raced the marathon, ran a 10k-tastrophe four weeks later, ran a great 5k three weeks after that, and am now in summer training. Let’s start with the half marathon race report. Intro I started running in August 2012 in order to lose weight. I lost that weight, but got hooked on running. October 2013 was my first half marathon, the very same race I ran this year. That year I hit my goal of sub-90; coming in at 89:39. After last year’s race I made a goal of going sub-85. A 3-month stint of ITBS later, I was back at my previous fitness level and got back to work. In the meantime I clocked at 38:49 10k and an 18:48 5k – which I have yet to attempt to challenge. The Training The main training for my half didn’t start until the summer of 2014. Prior to that I did Pfitzinger’s 10k plan from Road Racing for Serious Runners. But during the summer is when I really bunkered down. Since I started running, the Summer of Malmo was something I really wanted to try, but I never had any running partners. So I set up an online Summer of Malmo on reddit’s AdvancedRunning subreddit. I think it went quite well for everyone, and we all got a great glimpse into each other’s training. For me, I could tell I was getting stronger and stronger each week. At my running club I went from mid-pack to the back of the front-pack – sometimes pushing the leaders depending on the workout. My mileage peaked at 70 miles, and my tempo peaked at 6 miles at half race pace. The Race The race began at 7:30am. I woke up at 5:45, ate my sugary cereal (it was Cap’n Crunch on that day), drank some coffee, did my other rituals, and headed down. I did about a mile of warmup, plus about 5 strides at race pace. Last year the corral was terrible. This year it was the same, but I wasn’t about to be caught up in the crap. I went right near the front (we are still separated from the elites). Even at the front, I heard others talking about their expected times: 1:50, 1:45, etc. Oh well, it didn’t affect me as I was off from the horn. Prior to the race I decided sub-82 would have been amazing, but anything in the 82-minute range would have still been great due to my slacking September (new job, new city). So I was aiming for anywhere between 3:51-:55/km pace. The first kilometre does a big U around our legislature building, the second along the Inner Harbour, and the third up the slight incline of one of our main commercial streets. For each of these I was right within my target pace (3:51,:52,:54). Having run the course before, I knew the 4th kilometre was downhill and I took that chance to relax but still try and bank a few seconds (3:50 pace). The race then enters our city’s big park for three uphill kilometers. Great scenery but it takes a toll (3:57,:56,:55). Throughout the race time I would jump from pack to pack. I would hang with a pack going at my pace until for some reason the whole group slowed down, then I would jump to the next one I could see in order to maintain my goal pace. The first pack I started with was about ten people, then four, then three, etc etc. I never realized how going “fast” could get so lonely. Coming out of the park and into the residential areas me and two other men latched together for a while. It worked really well and we started reeling in other people. Great unspoken agreements happen during races. Like the others, though, they started to slow down and I was forced to take off on my own. Now coming out of the rich residential area and onto the exposed oceanfront road, I caught up to one woman and one man. As I started to pass the woman she sped up and moved in front of me. I thought that was kind of silly of her as her breathing sounded laboured, but if she wanted to act as a windbreaker for me I wasn’t going to deny her that pleasure. But like all good things it did not last long. Eventually her and the guy fell off (not by much though – they ended up finishing about 30 seconds behind me) and I was forced to lone wolf it again. This time was different though – there were barely any runners left to catch up to (in sight that is). Way in the distance I saw a guy with a bald head and he was my next target. I slowly reeled in Baldy over two kilometers or so and as I passed he turned his head and said “great job!” The support in this race was amazing. Volunteers, runners, spectators all cheering. There are lots of places where the course doubles back, and the “slower” runners were all shouting out encouragements to us “faster” runners. Hell, I even got to see the elites blasting by. After I passed Baldy, I heard some people cheering for someone behind me. I thought to myself, “no way is baldy catching back up to me”. And then I got passed for the first and only time in the race. But it was GLORIOUS. The guy (Blue Shirt) was doing great. He turned and chatted with me for a bit. I didn’t notice at first, but I had picked up my pace to stay with him. It was then that I really realized, I’m not doing so bad myself – I can finish this strong! In fact, I hit my best pace with Blue Shirt (3:43/km on kilometre 19). Side note: While with Blue Shirt, I heard two ladies on the side of the road talking. “Look at those legs. LOOK AT THOSE LEGS! Hey, nice legs!!” Eventually he sped up and I didn’t risk holding on (though I should have; he only finished 19 seconds ahead of me). The next 2k without him however breezed by in 3:53 and 3:49. As always, the race finished near where we started – in front of the Legislature Building in Victoria’s Inner Harbour. There was, as always is, a great crowd welcoming you in to the finish, the race director shook everyone’s hand, and the post-race snacks were delightful. 10724780_700774606664934_1177438994_n Results I was very pleased with my results. I clocked in at 1:22:19, which was a PR by 7 minutes and 20 seconds. I came 44th out of around 3700 people, and was 6th in my age group (25-29). Overall it was a great race, and I can’t wait to do it again in a few months. Takeaways

  • High mileage does good things to me. Over the summer I jumped 3 VDOTs.
  • From my race photos: I am a dirty heel striker. It’s a lot of wasted energy.
  • As I get faster, running these longer races will get lonelier and lonelier 😦

My First Track Races

So I’m sitting here, eating some KD (Kraft Mac n’ Cheese for the non-Canadians), and I thought what better time to post two mini race reports. These two reports are from my recent track races. For those who don’t know, I only started running just over 1.5 years ago, so I haven’t ever had the chance to run track (or cross country for that matter, but I get to do that in the fall too!). So when I found out that my town has a track series that has both open and elite races, I signed up for the whole thing.

The local track series’ logo

The first distances I have raced are the 5000m and the 3000m, the next will either be 5000m again or the 10,000m, and then after that I’m hoping to do some shorter distances – depending on what is offered (right now it is “TBD”).

Just as a little aside, the week before the first track series I found out my family dog was being put down. It was her time, but it still shook me. It caused me to go out hard in my Tuesday Night Workout with my running club, the Prairie Inn Harriers. And when I say hard, I went out really hard. This, plus the fact that we are doing our workouts on trails at this time of year, caused some severe tightness in my soleus muscle. Tight enough that I had to take off the two days right before the 5000m (and subsequently had to take off another day the next week). It is all better now, but I think it may have affected my races a bit. ANYWAY! Onto the reports.

The 5000m: Finished in 18:48 
This was actually my first time breaking the 19:00 barrier, but I didn’t really take this race that seriously. As mentioned, the past two days my soleus had been really really tight, and it was still tight on race day. My mind wasn’t really in the race either, as right before the race I went to the Highland Games (Scottish competitions) and had a beer and pulled pork. It just didn’t feel like race day. 

I started out far too quickly, with the first 200m in 40 seconds. I then settled in, and got into a pack with two girls and one guy behind me. It went well like this for most of the race, but I couldn’t hold on and they all started to pull away (well actually, the guy behind me rocketed away with 4 laps to go – who does that?). Then one of the girls completely dropped out of the race. I was manually taking my lap splits with my Garmin, while also using the pace it was giving me. Unfortunately it was giving me a slightly faster pace than I was running, which I think messed with my mind a bit. I gotta get a lock on that mental thing. Here are my splits: 

1. :40.5 First 200m 
2. 1:29.5 
3. 1:30.9 
4. 1:30.3 
5. 1:30.7 
6. 1:31.1 
7. 3:00.7 Forgot to press “lap”on one of these 
8. 1:31.2
9. 1:31.4 
10. 1:31.4 
11. 1:31.6 
12. 1:29.2 

So I wasn’t too far off my intended pacing of 88s/lap, but those seconds really start adding up. I’m fairly pleased with the result though, because I at least broke the 19:00 5k barrier, even though I know I can run faster.

The 3000m: Finished in 10:54 

My first time racing 3000m, so no matter what it was an automatic PR. I decided last minute to just try for sub-11 minutes, since I had no idea what else to try for and I really like going under even numbers. Turns out this is slower than my 5k equivalent says I should run, but my 5k is slower than what my 10k equivalent says I should run. I think I’m seeing a pattern here: I’m better at longer distances. Or, my minor injury may have detrained me a bit… 

Anyway, the race itself. I did a couple miles of warmup, and timed it pretty much spot on so I would arrive back at the track and be able to watch a couple 800 elite races before I raced. But then it was announced that the elite 3000m would be changed to go before the open 3000m. This meant an extra 30 minutes that I didn’t time for and by the time my race was about to be up, my muscles were cold. The 3000m elite race was really great to watch, especially the women’s. Here’s a video of the winner in the final lap (skip to 65s)!

I re-warmed up with some jogging and then some strides, and we all got ready to go. There were 16 of us, so the line was tight, and they lined us up in an order which was not organized very well. I was on the very inside, then there were a couple slower people, then a faster person, and it went on like this. I think it would be better to have us lined up based on estimated finish. So when the gun went off I was RIGHT in front. Oh god the pressure was intense. I took my first 200 WAY too fast. It was in 37 seconds, whereas I needed to be in the 44 second range. At 400m I was still too fast with a 82 split. I needed to slow down. From there I negative splitted the entire race like a pro. I let a couple people pass (I think I came in 4th, so 3 people passed) and got into a rhythm. For some reason, whenever I needed to pass someone, I would always catch them in a corner. The worst time to do so! With around 4 laps to go I noticed I was just about 4 seconds too slow to make sub-11, but I knew I would be ok with my finish. I continued negative splitting and finished strong, with the last 200m in 40s. 

Here are my splits: 

1. 1:22.51 
2. 1:29.87 
3. 1:29.48 
4. 1:28.35 
5. 1:28.43 
6. 1:28.27 
7. 1:27.33
8. 0:40.91 

So I think I either need to not get injured in minor ways, or I need to work a bit on my shorter distances. Oh well, that’s what fall will be for. I’m feeling healthy enough to start…the Summer of Malmo!!

Happy running everyone!

The TC10k v2.0

TC10kSo like I said in my first post, that’s me finishing the TC10k on April 27th, 2014 – just over a year and a half since I completed my first official run (I say first official run, because I did run a while ago, just never that seriously. In fact, I completed the TC10k once before too, just not in an amazing time).

On to the race. The Times Colonist 10k features a great course around much of the waterfront of Victoria, British Columbia. It is fairly flat, but the back half of the course is wide open to the ocean, and can experience some high winds. My original plan for this race was to find a friend from my running club and hang on his shoulder for as long as possible in order to not worry about pace as much. He ended up being in the elite section, because for his age (Master’s division) he is quite good. Looking back, I am glad I didn’t get up to him because he ran the first 5k way faster than I would have been a 5k PR for me.

The start: I’ve got to say, the organizers did a fantastic job at corralling this year. 40:00 and under was the first wave, which I was in, (subsequent waves were spread 5 minutes apart) and volunteers were being strict and only letting the corresponding bibs into the corrals. At 8:00am sharp we were off. My goal for this race was low-38, and if everything went right I would have gone for sub-38.

The first half: I really didn’t want to depend on my watch as much as I normally do, so I decided to run this race more by effort – focusing on my HR when I did look down. I still was able to get kilometre splits throughout the race, which helped me judge how I was fairing. The first kilometre went very well, hitting 3:47 which was right on pace. From there it was mostly on pace for low-38, hitting 3:52, 3:50, 3:49, and 3:50 on the next 4k. The first 5k was therefore quite good, especially considering the first half of it is a steady climb.

The second half: But then, as with one year ago when I ran this race, the weather gods gave me the middle finger. When this race hits 5k, it goes from sheltered residential neighbourhoods to exposed waterfront, and all the elements come with it. While the past few weeks have been calm, today wasn’t. The winds were high (~25km/h), it was a definite headwind, and when you are in the first 100 or so runners you are pretty spread out. Unfortunately you are in this weather for the vast majority of the second half, and my splits showed the toll it took on me: 3:57, 3:59, 3:48 (downhill section), 3:57.

Throughout that section I tried to draft behind some people but then they would start going slower than I wanted, which forced me to pass. One guy drafted off me for about 3k of it which was incredibly annoying (apparently not so well known race etiquette: share the load if you are not in contention to win). Eventually I started surging and slowing to lose him, and it seemed to work. Either that or he backed off when I blew a snot rocket that was carried by the wind back at him! Oops!

The final stretch: Going into the final kilometre I noted on my watch that I was getting close to missing sub-39, and I wasn’t going to let that happen. I was reinvigorated throughout the twisty end section of the race (seriously, there’s like a million turns in the last kilometre), and ended up hitting a 3:44 km. In the last 200m I caught up to another guy, but he didn’t want to let me pass. We ended up having a sprint off, and although he edged me out I was pretty pleased to hit 3:15/km pace during it.

Final Time: I crossed the finish with a gun time of 38:54 and a chip time of 38:49. Overall I’m pretty happy with the result. My time from this race last year was 40:49, so I broke my PR by exactly 2 minutes. I probably could have run the whole thing a bit faster, as the final sprint showed I still had a lot left in the tank. Also, if the weather cooperated I probably could have hit my goal, but you can’t always get what you want. Next up for me is a track series with a 5000m on Saturday, which will be my first time running track!

The Present

You now have the background of how I got started, so thanks to the magic of time travel I can give you an update of where I am now. I have now been running for about 1 year and 9 months, and my times have significantly dropped thanks to some very ambitious goals that kept me consistent, such as trying to go from 57:00 10k to sub-40 in 8 months.

During that period, my training went from about 15mpw to 40mpw in a very short time. I was pretty lucky I didn’t get injured. However, holding this higher mileage was probably the thing that did the most for me at the time. I was also doing longer intervals throughout that period – 5-6x1000m at 10k goal pace – and would occasionally add some fartleks to some runs. That was about a year ago. I didn’t make my goal (ended up with 40:49), but I progressed a lot.

After that, I decided to try my luck at a half marathon. What better goal to try for than another of the big barriers (to me, these barriers to the amateur runner are: sub-20 5k, sub-40 10k, and sub-90 half). So 6 months out from the race, I decided to go for sub-90 in the half. I upped my mileage to about 45mpw and started adding in tempo runs. I tried doing Daniels’ 5-15k plan, but it ended up being too much and I could feel like I was treading the edge of injury. This ambitious goal was successful this time, and I clocked in at 1:29:39. However, a weak glute and some improper shoes had done some damage, and I came down with a case of ITBS.

After several months of lowered mileage and still no progress, I went to the physical therapist. She set me straight with some stretches and some strengthening exercises, and after three months of ITBS I was free to train hard again. My first race back was piss poor: an 8k in about 32:5x, which was definitely a setback, but I was determined to get back into it for my favourite 10k (the one I completed last year in 40:49). I jumped back into high mileage, hitting 50+mpw consistently, and also joined a local running club that has some pretty impressive runners in its membership.

The singlet of the Prairie Inn Harriers, my club.

The singlet of the Prairie Inn Harriers, my club.

My times started to drop and I felt great. I raced in a local 5k to determine fitness and I had a massive 57 second PR, clocking in at 19:03. Being so close to sub-19 was disappointing, but it was good to see how far I came.

So with just over a month of training remaining till the 10k, I hiked my mileage up again – hitting 60 miles one week and maintaining 55 for the others. The day of my 10k came, and I had the very ambitious goal where if everything went right I would go for sub-38. Unfortunately, the weather was pretty poor and on the back half of the course we were hit with strong headwinds. I will post my race report later, but my final result was 38:49 – exactly two minutes faster than one year before. While I didn’t make my super ambitious goal, I was still pretty happy with the result.

So that’s where I am now: a sub-39 10k’er with a VDOT of 54. This weekend I have a 5000m race, which is part of a larger track series. I am hoping to go low-18s and knock my VDOT up to 55. Other than this series and a Tough Mudder, I will mostly be training for the same half I did last year, this time with a goal of sub-85. To train for this I plan on completing the famous Summer of Malmo, and I most certainly will be blogging about that (something that seems to be lacking on the internet).

If this sort of thing interests you, I encourage you to follow my blog, like the posts, and share it with your friends!

The First Run

TC10kThat’s me on April 27th, 2014. I’m finishing what is one of my favourite races, the TC10k, and absolutely smashing my previous 10k Personal Best (PB). But that’s not the best place to start this story. That will come later. Instead, let’s go back to August 2012.

IMG_5113That’s me, at the age of 25, on vacation in New York. At this point, I was just under 200lbs, having only recently started my weight-loss journey. I don’t look too bad, but you can definitely see the difference in the two photos. So what caused me to start this journey? While using the bathroom at my friend’s place one night, I decided to step on the scale. I had known already I was gaining a bit of weight since my more athletic days as a diver, but when I read 200lbs I realized just how much I gained. From that point, I pledged to get back to a healthy weight. To be considered a healthy weight, I would need to lose about 25lbs.

While diet (calories in vs. calories burned) was my main method of losing weight, I decided to start running in order to aid the calories burned portion. My first run was on August 10th, 2012, in Montreal (where I was living and going to school at the time). It consisted of running from my place, to Parc Lafontaine, and back.

Parc Lafontaine

I remember it very well. I got up at 6am, mostly because I was still self-conscious about running outside and like many new runners I thought I would be judged. At first my plan was to do the Couch-to-5k plan, but then decided to see just how far I could go. Even in the early morning it was already starting to get warm. I donned a cotton shirt and socks, some long shorts, and some very very old tennis shoes.

The sun was just rising and the city was still waking up. I took it slow for the one kilometre to the park and was already getting a little tired. From there, it was another kilometre around the lake (as seen in the above picture). This kilometre did not go as well as my first: I had to stop a couple times to catch my breath and drink from a water fountain. While this felt a little humiliating, being so out of shape, the beautiful park and my motivation kept me going. The final kilometre back home was without event and I arrived at my door tired, sweating, and proud of completing my first run.

My first run.

The first run.

Converting the above picture for the metric-users, I ran for just over 3.2k, and at a pace 6:13/km. Slow, but I ran. I continued to get up at 6:00am on run days, because I was still self-conscious for a while, but I did get up. The weight began to drop off and I began to run for longer at a faster pace. My next run was 5k (with a few stops still) and soon I was up to 7k. Somewhere in there the purpose of running began to change. It was no longer solely about losing weight, but more because I actually enjoyed it. In fact, I loved it. I was addicted.


Although I didn’t know it at the time, this was the beginning of my journey to become stronger, faster, and more competitive – the beginning of the road to sub-elite.