Friday, August 31, 2007

One step forward again...

This morning I was back on track. Today's run and the next two are to be easy runs -- I think to compensate for a fairly heavy week last week (just shy of 53 miles). So today I set out to do 8 miles. The chart said 8:40/mile, so I figured 8:20/mile would be do-able. My first mile I was able to keep it to 8:11 -- but that was as slow as I was able to do. Like some previous 'easy' runs, I had a very hard time keeping it over 8 minutes per mile, particularly on the slight downhill grades. The temperature was cool and the air was crisp -- perfect for running. It felt really good to be outside.

By the time I was into my third mile, I was resigned to the fact that I was now going to try to do something in marathon pace. As before, the slight-downhill grade stretches were a bit easier, and the slight uphill grade stretches were a bit more difficult. And, again, I had to concentrate on keeping my stride and legs loose during the run, especially on the slight-uphill stretches.

Everything was going along perfectly with 200 metres to go -- until I did a 180 degree turn on the gravel road to head back to the house, and fell on the road like a sack of potatoes. My foot just gave right out from under me on the loose gravel. A few scratches -- and maybe tomorrow a few bruises -- but nothing serious. I was more concerned with disrupting a pretty good 'easy' run. It reminds me, though, that I need to be careful as I approach marathon day. Just a little slip like that can ruin months of training.

Even with the mishap at the end, I did the 8 miler in 1:03:08 -- 7:53/mile. That's four seconds faster than my target marathon pace. I felt good and strong throughout, even during the uphill runs. So, as compared to Wednesday's 'one step back', today was one big step forward again!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Two steps forward, one step back...

Maybe it was the heat. Maybe it was the fact that I had run 26 miles three days prior and my body hadn't yet recovered. Maybe I went out too fast. Nah... probably the heat.

Tonight I was doing tempo runs. My chart said 1 mile of warm-up, 8 miles at 7:36 pace, and 1 mile of cool-down. I'd been working inside a nice air conditioned home all day, so when I laced up my shoes outside tonight I felt the heat. "Hmmmm... this may not be a great night for tempo runs." I was right!

It was about 27 degrees C. (81 F.) and the air was thick with humidity. Definitely not an ideal running night. But, what the heck, lets see what happens...

Naturally, my warm up run went well. 1.16 miles at an 8:02/mile pace... and I was just taking it easy. Then we get into the hard part of the run: I was going to target 7:20 per mile (4:35 per k) x 8 miles. The first mile was fine -- maybe too fine -- at 7:12 (4:30/k). Next mile was a bit more reasonable -- 7:16. The third mile was uphill a tiny bit, so my 7:33 was reasonable. But I was dying out there. I passed Paula Muxlow, who was doing her tempo runs in the William Street speed work zone and we both commented on the heat. And she poixnted out that my feet were slapping the ground -- which meant that I was losing it. She was right -- I was barely holding it together and my next mile was slower than marathon pace, let alone tempo run pace: 8:04.

Time to regroup. I took a break. Okay -- I bailed. No way I'm hitting tempo pace tonight. Jenny and Karen had come out to join a bunch of other Shamrocks including Rita Mcleod, Ian Trotter, Caleb Trotter, Paula Muxlow, Kelly Vivian, and a new Shamrock -- Kelly Finlayson. Anyhow, they had left the Jeep at the start of the speed work area, so I took a quick drive home for a "bio break" and then back to the speed zone again. Probably no more than 15 minutes, but by the time I got back, I felt ready to run again.

I headed out for the next 4 miles -- this time targeting marathon pace (7:57/mile) or better. First mile: 7:52. So far, so good. Next mile: 7:51. There's something to be said for consistency. Next mile: 7:38. 7:38?!! Where the hell did that come from? Final tempo mile: 7:36. Go figure -- the chart's target. I was pushing -- but not too strong. Maybe the extra half hour that had elapsed since I took a break made it cool enough that I could do it without overheating. I don't know.

Overall, my 8 tempo miles (with a 15 minute break at the half-way point) were done at a 7:38 pace. Considering the heat, I'll take it. But it just goes to show that I can't take Corning for granted because of one good run to Port Stanley. The training must continue.

It was great running with the group again. We all met at the vehicles and then went back to our place for a beer or two, which tasted great on such a warm night. (Gotta replenish those carbs!). As we get into September and my training isn't so nuts, we'll probably see a lot more of each other.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Personal Best, and Best Run Ever!

Jed De Jong and I did the London to Port Stanley run again today, which was put on by Runner's Choice, a London, Ontario running store that sponsors a lot of local races and running clinics. John Ferguson, the legend, organized this run for Runner's Choice, and apparently its the 74th time he's run this route.

Jed, me and John Ferguson 100 metres from the finish

My pre-run preparations were those that have been refined throughout these past weeks. To eat, I had a peanut butter and honey sandwich for breakfast, along with a bit of orange juice. I had a Mars bar in the car on the way to the start as well as a medium black Tim Horton's coffee. I think I'm going to take a thermos of Tim Horton's coffee to Corning so that I can replicate my winning formula!

I wore my black shorts with the thin reflective band on the front, one pair of Champion socks (I'll have to get more from Costco before the race), my (relatively new) Asics shoes, my Westover Shore to Shore reflective vest (which is more like a thin tank top), and my New Balance running hat that I purchased from Runners Choice last week. I had my Garmin Forerunner 205 on my left wrist -- fully charged and ready to go -- and my Timex watch on my right wrist, just as a backup. Oh, and I can't forget the BodyGlide that I purchased at Runners Choice last week to stop the chaffing on my inner thighs.

I carried my Gatorade bottle, as per usual, but only with a quarter of it filled as I was able to refill it with Powerade at the hydration stops. I also carried 25 jelly beans -- one after every mile except the last -- 13 in a baggie in my hand, and 12 in the little pocket in my shorts. I never actually got to the ones in my pocket.

As you can see, by the time John, Jed and I did our Lucan cheer (John is now an honorary Lucanite -- at least to Jed and me) and headed on our run, I had every detail covered.

We left the park in London at 7:09 am -- a bit later than the last run in July. That was fine -- we were going to be running a bit faster, targeting 8:30/mile (5:19/k). It was also a bit cooler to start with -- 57 degrees F. (14 C.) but once the sun was up, it warmed up quickly. I think by the time we were done it was about 71 degrees F. (22 C.) so it was plenty warm enough for a long run.

We got an abbreviated tour of John's old stomping ground on the way up Wharncliffe -- and Jed and I were able to point out the home that John showed us last month where he lost his virginity many moons ago. He was a bit surprised that we could point it out -- and, quite frankly, so were we!

By the time we made it to the first water stop, the other runners who were doing the full distance had pretty much caught up. They were tracking at a pretty good clip -- and we were holding our own, doing a 8:21 pace in the first 4.45 miles, just slightly ahead of our target pace.

Our pace continued to be measured but strong through the rest of the first-half of the run. By the time we hit the fifth hydration stop, we had done 13.8 miles with a running time of 1:54:35 -- good enough for an 8:18/mile pace. Now, adding in the water stops took us up to a total time of 2:05:38 (9:06/mile) but that was still quite acceptable.

Another member of Lucan's Shamrock Running Club, Kelly Vivian, joined us at this point -- as did our Sponge Girls. Jenny and my daughters, Karen and Tori, had made custom t-shirts for their self-appointed duties to keep the runners cool by providing cold-water-soaked sponges between hydration stops. The sponge stops only took a few seconds but were certainly welcome by many of the runners -- particularly as we got near the end. Jenny's t-shirt said "Are you sponge-worthy?" on the front, and the girls' shirts said "Sponge Girl". [Jenny got a sort of weird/disgusted look from a woman in the Tim Horton's on the way back from Port Stanley later that day.]

The next 6.2 miles we went through St. Thomas and, thus, had a few hills to contend with. We did a 8:29 per mile through this stretch, though, so we were still on our goal pace. I started to deal with some potential issues during this stretch. Around the 14 mile mark, I started getting some pain in my left hamstring. Getting close to the 19 mile mark, I had pain in my right calf muscle and left thigh. In all cases, I just concentrated on running more loosely -- more relaxed -- so that I could work through the pain. It took a couple of miles in each case, but relaxing my legs worked. Reading up later, the cramps may be due to lack of salt in my system. On my next long run, I may take along packets of salt with my jellybeans so that if I feel myself cramping up, I'll have a bit of salt and sport drink.

It was really the last six miles where we were looking to do our best times -- so around this point, both Jed and I (without saying a word to each other) started to step it up a notch. We did the last six miles at a 7:59 pace -- basically marathon pace -- and our last two miles were at a 7:29 pace.

We both had energy in the tank at the end. We hit the finish upright and smiling. There was no crashing (a beer at the finish from my mother's boyfriend, Tom, helped!) nor even a potential sign of me crashing during or after the run.

So, the final stats were:

Total time including hydration, sponge and lift-bridge stops: 3:57:35
Total time running: 3:33:37
Average running pace over 26.2 miles: 8:09 per mile (5:06 per kilometer)

This was just slightly slower than are target marathon pace. 10 seconds per mile faster and with no stopping at water stations and we're going to Boston!

But, of course, the training isn't over when you cross the finish line. We took the time to go for a soak in Lake Erie which was incredibly refreshing. And after a shower and a change of clothes, we had a very good lunch at GT's in Port Stanley. I was hungrier than I was after the last long run, but still only managed to consume one large hamburger -- at least for the solid-food portion of my meal. Karen and I split a jug of strawberry smoothies, which helped to get carbs into me quickly. And the three Sol beers (like Corona) did the rest of the job.

When we got home, I had an ice bath -- with what little ice was left in the house after being used for the sponge cooler. Now, several hours after the run, I'm walking relatively normally.

Even with the frequent stops for hydration and sponges, this was a personal best run for me. But more than the finish time was the way that Jed and I finished that made this the best run I've ever done -- at least for the next month or so! Corning (and Boston?), here we come!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A long 8 days...

I looked back at my mileage chart and over the last 8 days, I ran over 71 miles on 7 of those days. That's a lot for me -- and for most people, I suppose. Anyhow, I get 3 days rest before doing 26 miles from London to Port Stanley.

Today's run was 9.5 miles. Brian and Jody met me at the end of my driveway and we did a circuit that allowed Jody to get a 10k run in, and Brian to get his 12 miler. He had run to our starting point from his house (2.5 miles), so he already had the difference made up.

Jody has been steadily improving his speed. He was able to carry on a conversation for the first half of the run, but was clearly feeling the stress for the second half -- until the last kilometre when he poured on the effort and finished with a pace that I wasn't going to even attempt! Anyhow, his 10k run was done in under 1 hour -- about 58 minutes, I believe -- so that was an excellent pace for him.

Brian and I continued on to the corner of Neil Road and McGillivray where he took off towards his home and then I doubled back to our place. We did my marathon pace up until he took off, and I did a just a tiny bit slower than that on the way home. Overall a good run.

I'd purchased a New Balance running hat at Runners Choice in London yesterday. Normally, I wouldn't have thought much about it -- but as I was heading home during today's run, I noticed that the sweat was actually dripping off the bill of the hat. So, in addition to pulling the sweat away from my forehead, it was actually getting rid of it totally from my head. I'd never seen that before, but I was very impressed with the design. The hat wasn't cheap -- $25 -- but it certainly does the trick!

I had an ice bath after this run, even though it was on the short end of what I've done previously. Now I get to rest. I want my muscles to be rejuvenated to the greatest extent possible by Sunday!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Easy does it...

My third of four easy runs in a row was today. This time I was looking for around 7.5 miles and I decided to step it up a bit from yesterday to 8:25/mile. But, aside from walking the route, I couldn't seem to get it that slow. My first mile was at 8:21 and that was as close as I got. The second last mile was into a 15 MPH wind, so that slowed me down a bit -- but just to 8:18 for that mile. Overall, I was at 1:00:16 for the 7.34 miles "around the block" for an average pace of 8:12 per mile.

I did this run without any water, Gatorade or jelly beans. Not for any particular reason, other than it was going to take me an extra five minutes to get that organized and I wanted to get on the road. I was thirsty when I got back, but it certainly didn't affect my speed. It was cool out today -- about 61 degrees F (16 C.) -- so the heat wasn't a factor.

One more run -- 9+ miles, tomorrow -- until I get three days off. I'm looking forward to the break!

Monday, August 20, 2007

May the wind be at our back...

...when we race in Corning.

I did another easy run today -- this time, a 9.5 miler, targeting 8:30/mile. But this time, I really, really tried to keep it slow. I guess that is the good news -- that I have to try to keep it slow.

I forced myself to stay on track, consciously slowing down if I was seeing a pace faster than 8:20. It seemed to work. My miles tracked between 8:17 (the first one) and 8:27 (mile #8 -- against the wind). The last 1.5 miles, I just ran easy and did it in 8:13. So my average was 8:21 for the entire run.

My legs were still tired from the previous couple of runs. So I could feel that it was time to be serious about taking it easy. I used the run to try to loosen up my stride and concentrate on form.

So, another successful run. I have two more similar ones tomorrow and the next day before I'm going to give myself a three day break leading up to a 26 miler (again) from London to Port Stanley.

Easy run and sleep...

I did an easy run yesterday afternoon of 9.3 miles or thereabouts. My GPS died 1 mile from the end so my distance is probably accurate within 1/10th of a mile.

I started off trying to keep within an 8:20/mile pace but kept knocking off 8:01s -- three in a row for the first three miles. I couldn't have been that accurate if I tried, so I decided that maybe this was a run for me to try to keep to marathon pace. From there, my times reduced gradually to 7:51s and still I felt strong. Overall, I did the run in 7:56 according to the 8.45 miles on my GPS, and an even 8:00/mile according to my spreadsheet if I did, in fact, run 9.2 miles.

That gave me a total of just under 45 miles for the week which I believe is the most I've ever done in my life! Still, it wasn't too onerous, so I'm quite sure I can do more.

On that note, though, my legs were still a bit tight from the run on Saturday, so I could feel charlie-horses coming on in both upper thighs. Again, I worked on running loosely and that seemed to have the desired effect.

One other side effect of all this running is that I'm sleeping a lot more. I was asleep before 10 pm last night and I didn't get up this morning until 7:30 -- 9.5 hours sleep! But, if I want to be able to function during the day and get my runs in, I'm going to need the zzzz's!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Cooler weather has arrived!

Most people in Canada wouldn't be cheering about cooler weather -- but I certainly am!

Brian and I did our long runs yesterday -- 16 miles. I was targeting 8:20/mile or better, and Brian was looking for something in the 7:00/mile range. We compromised and ended up doing 8:10s for the first 11 miles, and then Brian shot ahead for the last 5 miles, so it worked well.

The biggest change from previous runs is that this was the first morning since I've started seriously training for the marathon that it was cold -- 48 F. (9 degrees C). What a difference! 10 miles into the run and I was just starting to put on a sweat -- but I also could feel a charlie-horse coming on in my left thigh.

Brian took off at about the 11 mile mark and, surprisingly, my pace didn't wane. In fact, it even picked up a bit -- hitting 8:06 for mile 12. While I could still feel the charlie-horse potential in my thigh, I was working it out by concentrating on keeping my legs 'loose' with each stride. Easier said than done when trying to keep a healthy pace, but it seemed to work.

Jenny came to check up on us at about 12.5 miles into the run -- and she came bearing grapes, water and a towel. I didn't need the water, but the towel was nice and the grapes were a pleasant surprise! I've had orange slices in a run before, but never grapes. They worked well and we may want to work some orange slices and grapes into my next 26 miler to Port Stanley and on the Corning run.

For my last two miles, I made the conscious decision to ramp it up to marathon pace. For mile 15, which incorporated a 50 foot increase in elevation, I was right on marathon pace. The last mile was relatively stable in elevation, and I was able to pull off a 7:44 pace.

Overall, I did 16 miles in 2 hours, 10 minutes and 23 seconds -- good enough for an 8:08/mile pace. 10 seconds per mile faster and 10 miles longer, and I'm going to Boston. Yesterday, I felt like I could do it!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

"Easy" is all relative...

Today's easy run of 10 miles was supposed to be at 8:41/mile pace -- but, as per usual, I shaved a bit off the target, looking for 8:20/mile.

The air was thick when I started and you could see the fog off in the distance. The temperature started at around 13 C. (58 degrees F.) but warmed up quickly to 18 C. (65 F.), and because it was so humid, it seemed much warmer.

Despite the uncomfortable weather, I was able to knock off sub-8:20 miles -- ranging from 8:02 to 8:20 -- and my last mile was at marathon pace (7:57), even though that wasn't my intent. I just wanted it to be done! My average over the 10 miles was 8:11/mile (5:07/k).

One thing I noticed was that I was feeling the effects of yesterday's tempo run. My muscles were definitely sore. So after this run, I did the ice-bath thing. My hope is that I'll have the full attention of my muscles for my scheduled 16 mile run two days from now!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Increasing the Tempo

Today I was scheduled to do a tempo run -- 7 miles at a 7:41 pace, with a 1 mile warm up and cool-down on either side. I set my goal pace to be 7:30/mile (4:41/k). Brian met me at our house at 6:30 am and we took off down to the speed work area on William Street. He was to do four 1-mile repeats and although I don't remember his target pace, he mentioned that one of his miles he did in under 6 minutes, which was a personal best for him.

For my miles, though, I was going to be happy if they were all faster than 7:30 -- and they were: 7:13, 7:25, 7:28, 7:27, 7:17, 7:23 and 7:13. I was particularly pleased that my last mile was as quick as my first at 7:13/mile (4:31/k) and I felt strong the whole way! My average pace over the 7 tempo miles (11.2 km) was 7:21 (4:36/k) -- so if I was doing a 10k race, I'd have completed it in 46 minutes -- a personal best time by over a minute!

Beyond that it was an uneventful run. We saw the white squirrel again -- and now I have a witness! The weather is starting to get a bit cooler -- around 64 degrees F. (18 C.) made it quite comfortable for a short run.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Easy Run or 8K Race? Hmmmmm...

Guess which one I did! There was never any doubt, actually. Despite the 20-miler yesterday, I was pretty sure I'd be recovered by today (thanks to the ice bath and beer), so Jenny, Karen, Tori and I all took part in the South Huron Trail Run -- an 8K race in Exeter Ontario. A bunch of other Shamrock Running Club runners were there as well.

The run went very well. I hit my secondary target of 36:00 bang on -- 4:30/k (7:12/mile) -- so I was pretty happy. The other Shamrocks did very well too, including: Coach Brian Watson (32:32), Jed De Jong (37:30), Jenny (43:51), Brad Cannom (47:31), Tori (51:01) and Karen (57:07). A bunch of personal bests, I'm sure. In fact, its possible that everyone's run was a personal best! My run last year was at 38:30, so I shaved about 19 seconds/k off that time.

Paula Muxlow and Emma (one of her running-buddy Border Collies) came to watch, as did Bonnie Martin with her son and daughter. Bonnie was our videographer. (Thanks, Bonnie!)

You can see a video of the race start and various finishes here.

While I felt like I was going to puke right afterwards (the sign of an excellent run), I recovered fairly quickly and now, 4 hours after the run, feel pretty close to 100%.

A very good day for all involved!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Long Run... Part Deux

Today, I was scheduled to do a 20 mile run at an easy pace -- 8:51/mile, according to my chart. I used to chart out my home to Lucan and back route and then sent out the call to other runners to see who wanted to join me. I wasn't counting on much reply because a lot of us are doing the Exeter Trail Run 8k race tomorrow -- but Bonnie Martin replied that she could do 10k with me and Coach Brian said he needed to do a 20 miler as well, so he would catch up to us along the route.

I started about 6:50 in the morning and the pace was quite acceptable. My first 9 miles ranged in pace from 8:11/mile to 8:22/mile, while I was targeting 8:30/mile. That got me from home to Tim Horton's in Lucan through the senic route, which was required to add about 4 miles to the route.

Bonnie was ready and waiting by the time I showed up at 8:05 and so I didn't even have to slow down. She just joined on in and we headed off to the south-east down Highway #4 towards the Roman Line. Brian caught up with us at about the 12.5 mile mark in the run. He'd been working to catch up to us for the previous 25 minutes or so! We kept an excellent pace, ranging from 8:22 to 8:56/mile, and finishing at 8:31/mile -- right in the range of Personal Best time for Bonnie. She even turned it on at the end, to a point where I had no desire to try to keep pace lest I screw up the rest of the run. So she did a 10k run in the range of about 54 minutes, I'm guessing, as compared to a personal best time of 52 minutes-ish in a 10k race. Well done, Bonnie. Thanks for keeping us company!

We made it back to Tim Horton's in Lucan, and Brian and I headed of towards home. 4.5 miles to go -- and the effects of the run were starting to take their toll -- and the temperature was starting to heat up as well.

Jenny and Tori showed up on their bicycles before we got out of Lucan to support us for those crucial last miles. What life-savers! Cold water, cold Gatorade, dry towels, orange slices, other snacks -- they were definitely prepared.

We kept plugging away, and fortunately a lot of this stretch was on a downhill grade. In fact, from Lucan to our house was almost a 200 foot drop overall. From Lucan to the Denfield Road, where Brian took off towards home, we did between 8:23 and 8:35/mile -- which was right on target. But I was starting to suffer.

Tori and Jenny kept pacing me with their bikes and offering supplies to keep me going. Interestingly, one of the things that had the most impact was the towel just to dry my face. It seemed to allow the wind to cool me down better. Or maybe it was just the fact that I felt dryer than I'd been in the prior two and a half hours -- but it made an impact.

For those last two miles, I clawed out an 8:28/mile pace and 8:19/mile pace respectively. I had nothing in the tank for that last stretch towards home.

Overall, my average pace was 8:26 over the full 20 miles. Pretty good considering I was targeting 8:30's. Still a ways to go before I'll be able to keep that up for 26.2 -- but as Brian said, we'll just have to hope it is cooler in Corning and that the stars align with our training and that for that one day I can do a super-human effort.

A couple of other notes:

I saw the white squirrel again on Neil Road -- twice actually. I saw him at the start of my run in a yard on the east side of Neil, and again up a tree on the west side of Neil at the end of the run. I just pointed at him during that last sighting -- I didn't have the energy to speak -- but Jenny and Tori weren't able to see him. They said that I must be hallucinating. While I have been known to be slightly "out of it" at the end of the run, though, I definitely saw him. Really!

My standard operating procedure is starting to solidify. I had a peanut butter and honey sandwich for breakfast plus some chocolate and a half cup of coffee (didn't have time for more) before my run. I had 1 jelly bean per mile, washed down with Gatorade which I carried with me. I wore my Shore-to-Shore reflective vest, which is more like a tank top, plus some loose black shorts, one pair of socks and my new Asics shoes, which are now sufficiently broken-in, plus my blue Running Room hat. I used Udderly Smooth body cream to address the chafing on my inner thighs and it seemed to work well. My GPS was on my left wrist and my regular watch on my right. When I felt hungry at mile 18, I had some more Gatorade and it did the trick. When I got back, I had three orange slices, lots of cold water (from the shower, actually), a bit of Gatorade and then a beer. No signs of crashing after the run! And then I had my ice bath after my cold shower so that now, three-and-a-half hours after the run, I can walk semi-normally.

The only thing that was non-standard was that after I got cleaned up, I went over to Brian and Bridget's place for a swim, which was quite nice. The swimming got me to move my legs without stressing them, which I'm sure will help me limber up. And the couple of beers and water afterwards whilst chatting with Brian and Bridget was quite pleasant.

Also, when I weighed myself after my ice bath, I was below 180 lbs for the first time in a very long time. Now, I'm sure I'll rebound from that, but even after the 26.2 miler two weeks ago I wasn't that light. According to the GPS, I burned off close to 3000 calories on this run. So I'm treating myself to a Tim Horton's Iced Cappuccino in order that I don't waste away! :-)

All in all, a pretty good run. Its still going to be a challenge for me on race day, at least the way I felt at the end of this run. But with some luck, continued hard work and a bit of magic, I'm reasonably confident I can make the Boston Qualifier time I need. Just six more weeks until race day!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Nothing to Report

Today I did a 7 mile 'easy run'. I targetted 8:30/mi. but ended up doing about 8:15's. I felt strong the whole way. My last mile was at sub-marathon pace. Same ol stuff. Didn't even see any white squirrels which I had seen a couple of times previously on Neil Road. The heat wasn't too bad since it was overcast and I left at around 7:10 am. Sorry -- nothing even remotely interesting to report today!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

I LOVE speed work! I HATE speed work!

Yes, I definitely have a love-hate relationship with my speed-work sessions. The ‘hate’ part is when I’m pushing as hard as I can to keep up my target speed, yet my GPS saying that I’m not going any faster. The ‘love’ part is when I’m done a 1 mile lap and I’m ahead of goal pace – and getting faster as do more laps.

That is pretty much how it worked today. Brian came by the house at 6:00 am to go for our run. We started early because I had meetings today in Toronto, and because we both wanted to beat the heat and humidity that had been forecast today.

Well, getting the run complete in time for me to get to my meetings worked well. But we were unsuccessful in beating the heat and humidity, as we were both drenched in sweat by the time we were done.

I started with a 2-mile warm-up run and then launched into my 3 miles of speed work, with each mile separated by a half-mile jog. My target pace for the speed work, according to my chart, was 7:01/mile. In fact, I was able to do the paces in 6:57, 6:53 and 6:48 – so I was getting faster as I got closer to the end of my run and knew I had the energy to complete in a more aggressive pace.

Interestingly, the net difference in elevation over the mile that I did was 50 feet down when running to the west, which I did on the 1st and 3rd laps. The wind was facing me during that westward run, which slowed me down, but also cooled me off. Net effect: probably zero. So grade differences and wind can make a difference -- but in some cases they just serve to even out the effort.

Brian had to do 8 miles at a 7 minute pace, with a 1 mile run on either end for a total of 10 miles today. He was definitely feeling the heat and humidity at the end as well, but finished his goal strongly. I can only dream about someday being able to keep up that sort of pace for that long!

One thing that Brian mentioned is that you train and train and follow the plan, and then you taper – and then for one day, you’re able to be super-human while running the marathon. So the fact that during your training, you may feel like you can’t possibly pull it all together to run 26.2 miles in your goal time, everything should come together come race day.

Monday, August 6, 2007

The Pendulum Swings Again...

...this time to the side that says, "I don't know if I can do a BQ pace for a full 26.2 miles!" Today I just ran on my own. Looking to do 9 miles or so, I set off on my run late in the morning. And while my first mile felt good, by the time I was into miles 7 and 8, the heat was starting to take its toll.

The good news is that I was able to set my pace (8:30/mile) and stick pretty close to it. In fact, my overall pace for the entire 9.27 mile run was 8:29/mile. Now, that included two stops where Jenny and Tori checked on me at the 6 mile mark and had a towel with which I could dry my face, and then another stop where Jenny showed up on her bike with some cold water and cold Gatorade with about a mile to go. But even excluding those two stops, the GPS had me between 8:20 and 8:30 for most of the miles I did.

One thing for sure, though: I hope it is cold out the day of the marathon. While the temperature today started at around 70 degrees F. (21 C.) it must have climbed to 80 F (27 C.) by the time I finished. It certainly seemed that way, anyhow. And the air was humid, which didn't help.

I was drenched in sweat when I was done, and I spent about a half hour in the shower afterwards pouring as cold water as I could get all over me. Oh, and the cold beer helped to cool down my insides as well.

A 180 degree reversal from yesterday's run.

This coming week has me doing speed work on Wednesday, a long run (20 miles) on Saturday and then we're going in a local race (8k) on Sunday. Hmmmmm... should be interesting!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Too fast... again.

Not that I'm complaining. I mean, I'm a big boy. I can choose to not succumb to peer pressure and run my own pace. When Coach (Brian), Heather Marr and I took off this morning from Tim Horton's in Lucan, my goal was 8 miles (12.5k) at an 8:30/mile pace. Brian was to do 16 miles today, so he joined us for the first 8 miles along the Coursey North route and then went off on his own to do another 8.

Brian's target overall was 8:00/mile or slightly better. Heather just wanted to run! No GPS -- I don't even think she was wearing a watch. So as we're in the middle of our first mile, I'm saying "Oops, we're a bit fast." At the end of the first mile, my GPS says we did it in 7:52. Okay, our typical fast start. Now we have to slow down a bit. Next mile, my GPS says 7:26. Well, but that was on a downhill grade. We're starting to head uphill a bit, so our pace will slow a bit. Which it did on the next mile -- to a 7:40 pace!

At this point, I gave up trying to slow down. We were all feeling strong and the weather was a perfect summer running temperature -- about 64 degrees F. (17 degrees C.). Besides, I was running with my coach, and he wasn't telling me to slow down so what the heck. We'll just enjoy the run.

Then came the Fallon Road hill. Mile 6 started with a 1/6 of a mile downhill run with a net elevation drop of 50 feet (seems like more). But then at the bottom, we immediately start climbing and over the next 1/4 mile we climb a net 90 foot elevation increase (seems like a lot more). I could certainly feel the burning in my thighs as we hit the crest of the hill -- all the while saying to myself, "I love hills, I love hills". Even still, our pace for that mile was 8:16 -- but at least it was closer to the 8:30 I had set as the goal at the start of the run.

For mile 7, we passed by Biddulph Public School at the corner of Fallon and Saintsbury and our pace as we approached Lucan still hadn't recovered to our pre-Fallon hill level -- 8:03. But now Heather could taste the end of the run and we all quickened the pace. We finished the last leg in a pace of 7:27 -- good enough for an average pace for the entire run of 7:47/mile (4:52/k).

Brian continue off to do the same loop again since he enjoyed that loop so much!

A good pace -- perhaps too good -- but we all felt good. And it was great running with Brian and Heather to make the effort all the more enjoyable.

The cool weather helped today, I'm sure. Just need to be able to hold that pace for a bit more than 3 times today's distance and I'll be heading to Boston. No sweat. :-)

Thursday, August 2, 2007

What a difference a day makes!

Today I was scheduled to do an 'easy run' of 7 miles at an 8:51 pace. The schedule had stepped up the pace a bit from the 9:02 that I was ignoring before, so I figured I'd step up my pace to target an 8:21 pace (5:13 per kilometre). And since I bailed on a full 8 miles yesterday, doing more than 7 miles today wouldn't hurt either. But this time, I started earlier in the morning -- around 7:15 -- when it was cooler (65 degrees F. or 17 degrees C.).

As usual when I'm running alone, I couldn't keep my pace in check. My strategy was to slow down if I saw a pace faster than 8:00/mile on my GPS, and speed up if I saw it slower than 8:20. But in each of my first 4 miles all ended up slightly faster than 8:00/mile, and only my 7th mile did I come close to 8:20. For the last leg of my run - 0.83 of a mile - I stepped it up a bit to target faster than marathon pace, and ended up doing it at a 7:33 pace. Overall, my pace for the 7.83 miles (12.5k) was 7:56/mile -- just a hair faster than my target marathon pace.

Yes, I know. Not good. I need to take the easy runs easier. But after my dismal run yesterday, it felt good to get a run in that I could consider an 'easy' pace, yet still be running at a marathon pace overall. I felt like I could run that pace for hours -- and I'll have to soon enough!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Friggin' Heat...

I wasn't sure what to name this post, but "Friggin' Heat" seemed to encapsulate it. I was thinking about "I Hate Heat" or "Hitting the Heat Wall" or "I'm Never Going to Make It".

Sooooooo... what happened? My run today was supposed to be an 8 miler, with 6 miles in the middle at a 7:37/mile tempo pace. I figured I'd aim for a 7:30/mile pace. I didn't get out the door as early as I would have liked, so by the time I was on the run, it was 9:30 am and the sun was shining... brightly... warmly. It was about 85 degrees F (just shy of 30 degrees C.) by the time I started.

I couldn't keep my pace down according to my instant pace on my GPS, but after 1 mile I was at 7:45. A bit fast for my warmup run, but so far so good. I picked up the pace a bit and did the next mile in 7:25 -- exactly where I wanted to be. The next mile at 7:33 -- okay, starting to slip a bit. I had to pick up the pace just a bit -- but the GPS never seemed to have have me where I felt I should be. Despite this, I ended up at 7:19 for the fourth mile (4:35/k pace).

By now, I'm getting hot. Really hot. And I'm not sure how I'm going to handle things -- especially since I know I was pushing my heat envelope, as it were. So I pulled the plug -- there was no way I was going to keep that pace for another 4 miles and, in fact, I wasn't sure if I was going to make it home. So my strategy was to just keep running at a sufficient pace to get back to our office (about 500 m closer than home).

Surprisingly, my pace -- while slow -- was still acceptable. My next two miles were at a 7:40/mile and 7:51/mile pace. I felt like I was crawling -- but in fact, I was running faster than my target marathon pace of 7:55!

So, I did 6 miles of my 8 mile run. But my average pace was 7:37 overall -- right on what I was supposed to do for my tempo run. But more importantly, I learned a couple of things: Don't try tempo runs in the heat -- it ain't going to work. And, that now my 'crawl' speed is still faster than my target marathon pace.

Hopefully I won't need either of these pieces of information come marathon day!