Sunday, October 28, 2007

3:34:20 - A personal best! (but no BQ)...

I'm extremely pleased with the run. As I had feared, the wind ended up coming straight up the Niagara River at us, so for many parts of the run, it felt like we were pushing a car!

Everybody's marathon time was slower than we were looking for. I found the results from last year, and the 6th place finisher then came in 2nd this year -- but was 4 minutes and 22 seconds slower! So even the elite runners were feeling the effects.

The race started off surprisingly nice. While the forecast was pretty consistent with what I had seen on Friday -- winds out of the north-northwest at 12 knots, gusting 22 knots -- when we got up in the morning, there was only a very slight breeze. We got to the starting area at the Buffalo Art Gallery and the sun was shining, and I was actually a bit worried it would heat up a bit too much for us. While we were able to go inside the gallery to look at the art and keep warm, most of us stayed outside to prepare for the start and chat. And when the starting gun went, there was still only a very slight breeze.

We picked up another runner who was shooting for a 3:30 marathon -- Helene Lamothe of St. Basile near Montreal. So there were now four of us in the group to hit this target -- Jed, Helene, me and our pacer, Brian.

My lower right leg was still giving me a bit of discomfort, so I had an ibuprophen before the starting gun.

We ran through the streets of Buffalo and kept a very good pace. The goal was to actually start out a bit slower than our average pace overall, and the net effect was that we didn't go out too strong. In fact, it appeared that we were at just a second or two over our race pace of 8:00 per mile after four miles of running through Buffalo.

As we ran over the Peace Bridge to Fort Erie, our time naturally slowed on the up-hill leg, but picked up accordingly on the downhill portion, giving us an 8:01 pace for that mile.

As we came around the loop to get onto the Niagara Parkway for a 1 mile run south before heading to the long run north, I saw a flag that was oriented such that wind was coming from the south! Perfect, I thought, and I wondered if I had somehow misinterpreted the aviation weather forecast on which I was basing my wind direction. If the wind was coming from the south, that meant that it would be at our backs the whole way!

Jenny, Karen and Tori were at this point in the race to cheer us on -- cowbell in hand and replacement eLoad sport drink and a bag of jellybeans and eLoad tablets as well. We swapped out my depleted bottle and bag for a fresh set, which we had prepared the day before.

My joy about the flag direction was short-lived. By the time we had started the run to the north, I could feel the winds starting to come at us. However, we kept plugging away and continued to knock off surprisingly consistent miles, ranging from 7:52 to 8:04 up until the halfway point of the race. When I hit my watch's lap counter at the halfway point, my time was 1:45:29 -- exactly to the second what I needed to qualify for Boston if I could keep it up. I had another ibuprophen, as I could feel my muscles starting to feel like they would seize up and I wanted to be able to work through the pain.

But by now the winds were picking up even further. It was just before noon and there were several miles where I simply had to put my head down and concentrate on treating the road as my treadmill, pushing the road back behind me with every stride -- just to keep pace.

Jed was starting to have some issues keeping up at this point and was about 30 seconds behind us at the halfway point. Brian dropped back to help him out, and Helene and I kept running.

Jenny and the girls were there to cheer us on at around the 12 mile marker and 16 mile mark, which was great. And at the 16 mile mark, Tori had some orange slices and grapes for us. While I didn't partake in the grapes, I had an orange slice which was perfect. It was past my lunchtime and I was getting a tad peckish!

Before long, Helene wasn't beside me any more -- but I looked behind me and she was right on my tail -- drafting! No probs. I was happy to help, and it didn't cost me anything. But it was clear that the wind was having an effect on everyone. We kept running together until about mile 18, where she told me not to wait for her -- to keep going at my pace, which as it happens, was pretty much right on track, ranging from 7:56 to 8:05 for the five miles since the half.

But I was starting to have problems -- particularly on the windy segments where the course would shift such that the winds could come right up the river at us. My next four miles were 8:24, 8:14, 8:36 and 8:40 -- so I had pretty much given up on a Boston Qualifier time.

Right about here, Brian caught up to me and with 4 miles to go, he said, "Okay, buddy, you've got the finish in the bag, you've got a personal best in the bag -- now lets go for Boston." Shortly after that at about the 23.5 mile point in the race we came up to Jenny and the girls. Another orange slice and Jenny shouted at me, "You can do this. Get mad. Get going!" She could see that end-of-marathon look in my face where I was getting to the stage where I had nothing left in the tank. And with just under 3 miles left, we kept plugging ahead.

Again, I pulled out all of the visual imagery I could to keep me motivated. "3 miles left -- that's just an easy 5k -- like running from the bridge on Maguire Road to the house. That's nothing!". "2 miles left - that's like from the corner of Maguire and Clandeboye Roads to the house. Piece of cake!".

Brian kept pushing me hard as well. "You've got to keep working through the pain, buddy. Just 15 more minutes of pain -- keep pushing hard". He also tried giving me incentives to get to close targets. "Just around this bend and we'll be out of the wind. Keep working!". Of course, he was right -- until we went around the next bend and were right in the middle of the wind again! But it worked and I kept pushing. I hadn't looked at my GPS once Brian had joined me. And when the winds would get tough, I'd just put my head down, look for his feet ahead of me, and keep pushing, treating the road as my treadmill, pushing the road behind me with every step.

With about a half mile to go, my youngest daughter, Tori, appeared seemingly out of nowhere to run with me and she kept a good pace. Brian was encouraging me to pass other people who were also turning it on for the last push to the finish and at one point said, "Okay, buddy, time to leave it all out there. No conserving." I could feel myself pick up the pace.

Finally we could see the finish. Tori peeled off as we hit the shute and I turned it on for the end. My goal was to finish "upright and smiling" so I pasted a smile on my face for the last 50 meters. But I was done.

I came across in 3:34:20 -- just 3 minutes and 21 seconds off my Boston Qualifier time. -- but a personal best by almost a full hour!

I wandered around the corral where the food and Gatorade was being distributed for about a half hour -- both to wait for Jed to come across, and to make sure that if I crashed, I wouldn't be far from the medical tent. But I didn't crash. I felt close, mind you, but once I started eating an apple from the food bag, I started to feel better. I had a second one, and it was exactly what I needed.

Helen came across shortly behind me at 3:38:38, although I didn't see her, unfortunately. Jed came across in 3:46:14 -- an excellent time considering the winds, but not what he needed for a BQ. He said he felt like bailing about 20 times, but kept perservering. Certainly, 3:46 is a time in which he can be proud.

All-in-all, I was very pleased. While the temperature was exactly what I needed -- about 10 degrees C (50 degrees F) -- the winds definitely made it a challenge. And so I'm not only happy about setting a personal best, I'm also very confident that given the right conditions, I can make my BQ target time. I had a big smile of my face on the walk back to the hotel.

We aren't planning another marathon for this fall. We're done at least until the spring. But we'll continue to train for shorter distances and perhaps try to fit in a couple of half-marathons. So the long road to Boston is going to be longer than I'd hoped. But it will make the event all that much more special when I finally do make it!

Friday, October 26, 2007

No short run this week... too busy!

I've been up to my ears in work this week and there is no way I can fit in the 3 miler (or 6 mile bike ride) that Brian had suggested. I emailed Brian to find out how crucial this run was and he said that since he had just done a 6 mile run, he'd make it 3 for him and 3 for me. But I owed him a Guinness! (Deal!)

Bad news, though, about the weather forecast. While the temperature looks perfect, they're calling for winds out of the north-northwest -- which will put the wind right in our face. for 75% of the run. The only saving grace is that if it can shift a bit more to the west, there is a fair bit of shelter from houses and trees along the route. Otherwise, it will be coming right up the Niagara river at us. And they aren't talking about a slight breeze here -- they're saying 12 knots, gusting to 22 knots. Oh, well -- we'll see!

Jenny and I have our room booked at the Niagara Falls Courtyard Marriott Hotel ( for the Saturday night before the marathon, so I'm really, really doing this thing!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Last tempo run before Niagara...

Brian met my at our house at 9:00 to go out for the last tempo run before the Niagara Marathon this weekend. Our goal was somewhere around 7:40/mile. The winds were strong -- generally coming from the west, which made the route actually fairly consistent, since there is about a 50 foot elevation drop at the west end of our route as compared to the east end. Still, battling the winds certainly made your muscles work -- somewhat akin to pushing a car when the winds were coming right at you.

Nonetheless, we were able to bang out very consistent times of between 7:35 and 7:38 per mile, which was great.

I felt strong, despite some pain in my lower right leg at the start -- but which seemed to go away after a mile or so of running.

Brian suggested either a 3 mile run later in the week or perhaps a 6 mile, just to get the jitters out of my system more than anything else.

4 more sleeps until Niagara! (Starting to get excited, again!)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Last Long Run before Niagara Marathon!

I guess the first thing to get out of the way is that we've confirmed that I'm doing the Niagara Falls International Marathon next weekend, which runs from Buffalo, NY to Niagara Falls, Ontario primarily along the Niagara Parkway which runs beside the Niagara River. Coach Brian Watson is going to pace me.

The next exciting news is that we have a whole crew of people from the Shamrock Running Club joining us: Paula Muxlow and Gwyn Hayman have been training for this run for quite a few months, now, and are both doing the marathon. Kelly Vivian, Jody Durand and Mary Ondrejicka are doing the half marathon. Rita Lewis is going to cheer on Mary and the others halfers. And one of the newer members of our group, Heather Mutter, is doing the 5K.

But the really exciting news is that Jed de Jong has decided to give it a shot a the Niagara Falls International Marathon! He's feeling very good and ran an excellent 16 miler with Brian and me today. He won't be targeting a 3:30 finish, though. He needs 3:35 to qualify for Boston, so that's what he's shooting for, which makes 100% sense.

Today's run was excellent. The weather was cool to start with (about 14 degrees C - 57 degrees F) and by the time I started from my house, Jed had already run from his place in Lucan -- about a 5 mile run on its own -- to meet us. Brian showed up about a minute and a half later and off we went.

As with my Friday run, the wind was right in our face for the first kilometer -- but for the rest of the run into Lucan, the wind was at our side which helped to keep us cool.

We then did a 6 mile loop to the southwest of Lucan and escorted Jed home, he having done his 16 mile run with no problems.

Brian and I made our way back to our place but by now the wind appeared to have shifted slightly so that our westward run had us hitting the wind at about a 45 degree angle -- certainly enough that it was making us work. With 2 miles to go, I happened to mention that I had a couple of cold Coronas in my fridge and, apparently subconsciously, we both picked up the pace a bit. :-)

Overall, we had targeted 8:30 per mile and, in fact, did 8:29 per mile according to my GPS. Can't get much closer than that!

We celebrated our excellent run with a couple of beers out on porch outside our living room, which was quite pleasant. The beer certainly tasted good, especially considering that within an hour or so, it was getting unseasonably warm.

So, one week go to. The weather is still going to be a question mark, but all signs so far are that it should be back to seasonable. The Weather Channel's long range forecast has us at a low of 5C (41 F) to a high of 12C (54 F), partly cloudy (good!) with a 10% percent chance of precipitation. Should be ideal.

7 more sleeps!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Detroit Marathon - Helping Shore to Shore in the Race Expo

No running today. I played hockey last night, and ran 9 miles yesterday morning, so I thought I might want to rest up before my long run tomorrow.

Jenny and I volunteered to help out at the race expo for the Detroit Marathon which runs tomorrow. It took us over 4 hours to get down there, primarily due to construction-induced traffic congestion on I-94 from Sarnia as we entered Detroit.

Jenny drove, so on the way down there I did up a video compilation of the Shore to Shore Relay Race with photos and videos from last year. To have a look at it, click here. Going through the shots and videos reminded me of how much fun we had doing it. It was our first relay and we had no idea what to expect. Everybody had so much fun, though, that we're going to try to field two teams this year. Not bad for a small community!

The Expo was very interesting. Jenny and I could talk about the experience of the first Shore-to-Shore more than Chris Veillon, the gentleman who runs the London Ontario marketing company who was manning the booth. We'd see people looking quizzically at the sandwich board that describes the race ("a 300 K journey") and then go out chat with them about the experience. Quite a few people had run other relays before and were happy to hear that there was another one close to them -- and without a lottery requirement to get in!

Anyhow, it was a very pleasant day and we felt we did some good in being there. Jenny and I both felt that we'd influenced at least 5 potential sign-ups, with at least a couple of for-sures.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Hoping for no headwind!

Today's run was definitely interesting. I was doing an easy 9-miler -- but 'easy' is a relative thing. I was targeting 8:30/mile -- which should be easy. But the first 3 miles were anything but. My first mile as at 8:40 and I was working. I was eventually able to get it down to 8:27 and 8:26 for the next two miles, but it was like I was pushing a small car in front of me with every step.

As soon as I turned on my route so that I was perpendicular to the wind, it was like someone had turned off the hurricane. My pace picked up sufficiently that I had to rein myself in again. The next two miles were at 8:21 and 8:29.

Now I started heading home with the wind at my back and banged of 8:26s for the next three miles, and then finished strongly with an 8:35 mile -- which included about 20 seconds of chatting with Jenny and Tori who passed me on their way to Ilderton. So, really, I was doing more like an 8:15 mile.

The 'lesson' from this run is that if I am faced with a headwind, I'm sunk before I start -- at least as far as hitting my BQ. Here's hoping for no headwind!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Easy 5 miler again...

Tonight, Jenny, Karen, Tori and I went out for a run from Tim Horton's in Lucan. The girls were only to do a 4 mile run, but I was looking for 5 or 6 miles. I joined them for the first 2 miles, which we did in 9:31 and 10:10, respectively. Then I went off on my own and did between 8:42 and 8:59 for another 3 miles -- still keeping the run easy.

Unfortunately, it was starting to get dark so when the girls drove by at my 5 mile mark, I jumped at the opportunity to get a ride home. Not that I needed any assistance getting home -- I was feeling strong and cool.

Interestingly, when I started the run my right calf was still sore -- particularly after the speedwork and then hockey last night. But after about 2 miles, I could hardly distinguish any pain and now, writing this post, it feels about 98%. I'll have to remember that when the hypocondriac phase appears as we approach the marathon date!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Speed Work - 7 miles at 7:30 target...

I was scheduled to do 7 miles of tempo runs at a 7:30-ish pace, and Jed was to do 7 1-mile repeats, so we decided to run together.

The wind was fairly strong out of the east, making the run from the west part of the speed-work area to the east particularly difficult. On the other hand, the run from east to west was litterally a breeze!

Our warm-up mile was done in 8:51 -- quite respectable for an easy warm-up.

We then knocked off the 1-mile repeats in: 7:28, 7:35, 7:23, 7:43, 7:17, 7:37 and 7:24. Notice how the 2nd, 4th and 6th repeats were considerably slower than the others. That was due to the wind in our face as wel as the fact that the route is clearly uphill from west to east.

I felt strong the entire evening -- even when running into the wind. Jed found the wind a bit more difficult to deal with, but still pushed to complete the repeats in the times above. Best of all, though, was that his hamstring in his right leg was no problem whatsoever!

In summary, I felt strong. The cool weather continues to help, as I didn't feel overheated in any way, although I certainly put on a sweat. And Jed certainly ran well, so there may be hope that he'll join us in Niagara!

Just 12 more sleeps until the Niagara marathon!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Half Marathon Distance at an Easy Pace...

A bunch of us did a run out to Granton and back from Lucan. It worked out to about six miles out and six miles back, but there were some extra distances that we put in to build things up for what must have ended up being about 13 miles total.

Tori and Jenny joined us for the first couple of miles and then headed back to Lucan.

Jed was there -- doing part of his 20 miler with us. Paula had recovered from her ankle pull the week before and was doing the run at a steady pace. Gwyn was working at keeping her target marathon pace of 9:09 per mile, and Kelly Vivian was just out for a run because it was a nice day! Kelly had no particular pace in mind, but could basically do any pace we through at her, within reason.

It was a good running day. The wind was at our backs on the way out to Granton, and it was in our face on the way back, making most of the last half of the run seem like it was uphill. In fact, the GPS elevation indicates that it was pretty flat (net) overall -- some ups, some downs.

Jed looked healthy, and had no problem keeping to the 9:09 pace, which is great. We're starting to think he may be ready in time for Niagara, but he's not committing yet.

Gwyn had a great run, turning it up a notch for her last mile to, I'm guessing, about an 8:15 pace. I say 'I'm guessing' because Kelly and I really had no desire to try to keep up!

The cool weather certainly allowed me to run easily without finishing overheated whatsoever. I made sure I hydrated regularly. I certainly felt strong at the end of the run as Kelly and I turned it up a notch to approaching marathon pace.

Another good run -- and it was a pleasure, as always, have other running nuts to share it!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Easy 5 miler...

My daughter, Karen, and I went out for an 8k run tonight. It worked out well since my easy pace would be her tough pace. While she is not interested in speed, she's training for the half marathon at Disney World in January, so she knows she has to work on endurance. Speed is just one of those things that comes along with the endurance training.

We're not quite sure, but we think that the pace could be a personal best for her for an 8k run. We were able to converse easily throughout the whole run, and I 'encouraged' her as the pace started to wane. But when we got to the last kilometre, she still had tons of energy in reserve and ended up doing a sprint at the end -- certainly at a pace that was faster than I was interested in doing.

Her pace for the 8.0 kilometres was 6:11/k or 9:57 per mile. But the fact that she has so much energy left at the end leads us to believe she could easily step it up to 6 minute ks for 8 to 10 k. At least I believe she could do it.

So, it worked out well, at least from my perspective. I kept to an easy pace, and Karen stepped it up to a pace faster than she would have otherwise attempted. Another very good run!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

First Post-Corning Tempo Run...

Brian and I went out for a tempo run today. We just wanted to do something short 4 miles or so, plus one or two on either end for warmup and cool-down.

It was, well, a crappy day by most peoples' standards. Very cool with a slight drizzle at times, and a bit of a wind as well. But for me, it was almost ideal running weather as there was no way I was going to overheat.

We went out and at the 1.5 mile mark, we ramped it up, aiming for 7:40/mile. In fact, we did it in 7:43 so we were well within range. From there, we ramped up further to 7:31 -- then 7:33 and finished strongly (and into the wind) in 7:27. On our way back for the cool-down, we had to rein ourselves in for the pace as we kept ramping it up to close to marathon pace!

My right calf muscle was hurting a tiny bit during the first mile, but it worked its way out. Other than that, no issues from a health perspective.

I remembered to drink a good-sized gulp of e-load after every mile, despite the fact that I wasn't hot or thirsty. This is now part of my training -- training myself to hydrate!

In summary, it was very good to feel strong just 10 days after crashing in the marathon!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Arrrggghhh -- the heat!

Once again (for the second time in just over a week) I had to battle the heat during my run. I just went out for an easy 5 miler. But the temperature was 29 degrees C. (85 degrees F) and it was muggy. For the first 3 miles, my run was good. But as soon as I headed east with the wind at my back, I could feel myself overheating and I felt just like I did when I was at the 22 mile mark in Corning. I had a flashback and everything!

I finished the run in the desired time and at the desired pace, which was great. But I really, really know now that I just wasn't meant to run when I'm hot.

So the weather on the day of that Niagara Casino Marathon better bloody-well be cool!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Sunday Easy Run...

There was a bunch of runners out for the Shamrock Running Club's weekend run. I think everyone wanted to chat face-to-face with how each of us did in our respective marathons, and since everyone was taking it easy there were lots who could keep the pace of the majority of runners.

Last weekend Rita Lewis qualified for Boston at the Toronto Waterfront marathon, and Heather Marr ran it in 3:52 -- not quite BQ time for her, but definitely a very good time. Gwyn Hayman and Paula Muxlow ran the half marathon in Toronto and both had very respectible times. So it was good to get together and share war stories, as it were.

Terry Sullivan who ran with us in the Shore to Shore running relay race came out as well -- a bit of a trek from his home in Orangeville! Heather Martin, the daughter of close friends of ours who were visiting for the weekend, joined us and had no trouble matching (or exceeding!) our pace. Add Ian Trotter, Jed De Jong, Jody Durand, Brian Watson, Jenny, Karen, Tori and me to this list and we had a total of 13 runners for our little 8.3k run.

Paula showed up in her truck after we had finished and were in our chat mode -- and she had just twisted her ankle on a crabapple, of all things, this morning. Thus explaining why she wasn't able to join us for the run -- and also putting her BQ marathon (Niagara) in jeopardy at the end of October.

As far as the run itself was concerned, it was at an easy pace, but it was very warm and muggy out. Jed had already done 20+ kilometers by the time he met up with us and so he got a very long run in. While the heat was weighing heavily on everyone, Jed was keeping up his pace at between 8:30 and 9:00/mile, which was exactly where he needed to be. I paced with him for the last kilometre and then paced with Heather Martin for the last few hundred metres as we did a fast run to the finish.

All-in-all, it was a good run. I felt excellent -- no stiffness anywhere. Brian and I chatted and Niagara is looking more-and-more like the one. We'll make a final decision at the end of this week.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

First Run after Race...

Brian and I went out today. It was just a 5k and we didn't wear our watches just so that we could run easily and chat about strategy for the next chapter in "Me against the Marathon". Basically, Marathon has me mad, so now its personal!

We're still tossing around whether to do Niagara (too soon?) or Philly (too far?). But I'm feeling sufficiently good already that I don't think being physically ready for Niagara will be an issue, so that is where I'm leaning.

Today's run went well -- I was just a tiny bit stiff in my thighs still -- so my recovery appears to be going far better than the marathons I did three and four years ago.

I've been continually going back in my memory to race-day to analyze what I did wrong -- and I found one more really big thing that led to my demise in the race. I was tracing the graph that the Garmin GPS gave me. It looks like I was going along at a nice steady pace and then for some reason slowed down so that my instant pace was 8:41 and 9:15 at around 21.2 miles. I must have panicked because I increased my pace to 7:00 and then even lower to 6:15 and at one point 5:53 at 22.4 miles.

Now, bear in mind how inaccurate these instant GPS paces are. But, it looks like I was really pushing it. Then I took my rest break and tried running again. But I was done. My pace was all over the place.

This is where a pace bunny would have really helped (i.e. its all Jed's fault :-) ). I must not have been seeing straight -- but it makes a lot of sense now. Of course I crashed: I was sprinting at the 21 mile mark! Arrrggghhh!

As I said above, now its personal. I'm more dedicated than ever to hitting a BQ. May not be next marathon. May not even be this year -- but its going to happen!