Saturday, January 30, 2010

Cruise to Run - Barbados

Today we had a 5k race on the island of Barbados, which was also open to school kids and other runners from the island. The weather was pretty good -- a high forecast of 81 degrees (although it was definitely warmer than that when the sun was beating down on you) and with a light wind. Fortunately there was a bit of cloud cover so the race wasn't done totally in the sun. Jerry had arranged to have a two-lane section of the road blocked off for the race and police managing traffic.

I was targeting a time of less than 22:30 but felt good enough at the start to see if I could pull out a time faster than that. I ended up finishing in 21:54.6 -- 5th out of 11, six seconds slower than the 3rd place finisher in my age group, 8 seconds slower than Dick Beardsley, so I was pretty happy with that time. Looking back at the GPS, my last 200 metres were at a 3:36/k pace (5:48 per mile), so I was pushing it at the end. I would have had to start my kick 30 or 40 seconds earlier to make up the 6 seconds -- and I don't know that I had it in me.

Jenny was 5th out of 18 in her age group with a time of 25:10 -- but because 2 of the 3 women's overall race winners were in her age group, she moved up to the bronze medal position in her age group. Jed had a very good run with a time of 23:34, and Cathy set a personal best 5k time of just under 30 minutes -- 29:57! Nobody was really targeting a personal best as this was our 7th run in 6 days so our muscles weren't exactly rested. So Cathy's PB was a definite bonus!

After a quick bite to eat, we boarded the buses for a beach located not far from the docks. In fact, it was so close that Mike (one of the organizers of the races we`d met on day 1) jogged there faster than the buses could navigate through the traffic. It was a bit of a weird setup as they weren`t exactly public beaches, but they weren`t exactly private, either. Cruise To Run had arranged our entry fees to the Boat Docks beach, including two free rum-punch drinks each and there was a bar at which one could buy a beer -- although it was relatively expensive. Today`s beer-of-the-day was Bank`s -- $4 at the bar. A bunch of runners went for a long swim about a km down the beach, and the Cruise-To-Run folks had arranged kayaks to escort them. The water was crystal clear -- amazing.

Back to the ship, we had just enough time to get cleaned up for supper and get to the theatre for Bart Yasso's presentation. Bart had been with Runner's World for over 23 years and is currently its Chief Running Officer (CRO). His presentation spanned a lot of the interesting places he'd run over his lifetime, including the arctic, the antarctic, the first Badwater Ultra marathon through Death Valley in the U.S., the Himalayas, India and his favourite, Africa where some of the worlds best runners now hail. In his earlier days, he was an ultra marathoner, having done a 50 miler at 7 minute miles. He wasn't that fast now, but he still loved to run and the stories and photos were fascinating.

We had a phenomenal meal that night -- including a couple of lobster tails and prawns that were cooked just perfectly for me, and Beef Wellington for Jenny. Jon and Emily Roe, with whom we had run that first day in San Juan, joined us. Jon is one of an elite group of pilots in the Stealth bomber program and is stationed outside of Kansas City. Emily is a physical therapist, although she is currently just working part time since they've just moved to Kansas from Louisiana recently. They were very pleasant dinner companions!

After dinner, I took part in Princess Idol karaoke contest. I did what I thought was a not bad rendition of Sweet Home Alabama, but didn't make it to the top 2 (out of 7) to compete in the final competition on Saturday night. We then went to a show in the theatre -- Piano Men. The singers and musicians were quite good, but I could have done without the dancers. After managing to lose $120 in about 15 minutes at blackjack, I headed back to the room.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Cruise to Run - St. Lucia

This morning`s run was from the beautiful island of St. Lucia. We had a couple of local runners with us, including Victor who had won the Barbados marathon 6 times and runs a 30 minute 10k. Ali runs 32 minute 10k. We had a police escort out of the downtown area and a lane had been blocked off to allow us to run out of town and around the airport landing strip, and then up to the light house atop a rather long hill (yet again). Jenny and I both battled up the hill all the way without walking, which was not an insignificant challenge. Again, Jerry and Jody had arranged for water bottles along the route and there was Monster Energy Drink and water at the top of the hill. The view of the harbour and the rest of the island from the lighthouse was great. We took it easy both there and back (with the exception of the hill, which wasn`t easy no matter how you slice it) so that we could save some energy for tomorrow`s race.

The beer of the day was Piton, which is brewed in St. Lucia I think. Jed and I each had one while we were wandering around the market with Cathy after the run. Jenny decided she`d just relax by the pool. By the time you`ve been to 3 or 4 straw markets, you`ve seen everything. Although one thing that was a bit different on St. Lucia was that there were lots of spices and sauces available. Cathy and I each bought a large bottle of extra hot sauce.

We spent the rest of the afternoon lounging by the pool listening to quite a wide array of pop music, reading and (in my case) updating my blog posts.

Lisa Bentley, Iron Man racer extraordinaire, gave an excellent talk on the power of positive attitude and how it can help you get through a lot of what life throws at you. She should know as she has cystic fibrosis (CF) and yet is able to be incredibly fit and active in her life. Very motivational.

We had supper with Glenda, Lisa, Brenda, Heidi and Ann, and afterwards a bunch of us went to a Country Hoe-down (line dancing lessons -- I didn't know in advance!) and then Karaoke (I sang Sweet Caroline) -- but packed it in around 10 pm. I was thinking about tomorrow's race so I was definitely taking it easy!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Cruise to Run - Antigua

This morning we did a 8 mile run from the docks in Antigua out to Fort Barrington and back. Before the run began, we all brought books to donate to the local library as part of the Runners Give Back program that Jerry and Jody had organized for the cruise.

The run was not bad -- a few hills -- but the heat was definitely wearing me down. I passed Dick Beardsley midway through the run and Ironman triathlete champion Lisa Bentley near the end of the run -- but I'm sure both could have kicked my butt if either were sufficiently motivated. It wasn't a race -- just a run -- but I ran it relatively hard in any event.

Jerry and Jody had coordinated with the Antigua tourist ministry, who were great. I carried an Antiguan flag to and from the fort. We had truck playing Caribbean music on loudspeakers and a photographer along the route. We had subway sandwiches and water bottles all at no charge at the fort and water bottles along the route. And the tourist ministry people were incredibly hospitable and appreciative of our attendance. We all did the climb to the top of the fort -- including some relatively tricky climbing areas into the fort itself -- but after Tortola, this was _nothing_!

There was an optional Hash run with the Anitgua Hash House Harriers (AHHH) running club. A `hash` run is called such because there is typically a snack, beers or both at the end of the run, and `hash` is a British term for a meal back in the 1930`s. The hash run is where a designated 'hasher' sets a running route that is kept secret to the other runners. But he can also setup false trails. The hasher drops small piles of flour to mark the route. But if you come across an `X` in the route, you have to turn back to the previous intersection and look for a new trail of flour `blobs`. Or if you hit a number, say 4, with a line underneath it, you have to turn around and go back that number (4, in this case) blobs. There are arrows to mark a mandatory turn, and a blob with a circle around it at an interesection means that the trail could go in any direction from that point -- pick one and see if it is the right one!

It was a long run -- they estimated we`d be out for about 70 minutes -- and they took us up two trails -- one of which was quite long, taking us to the top of a celluar tower hill (which after Tortola`s hill climb and this morning`s run was definitely _not_ appreciated!) -- but we perservered and made it back with lots of time to enjoy a chicken or burger lunch from the grill, cold beer and a beautiful beach -- with proceeds from the food and beer to go to AHHH. The beer of the day was Wadidli, brewed on Antigua, and when that ran out Jed and I switched to Red Stripe.

After some swimming and relaxation, they had the Hash penalties segment of the run where a Hash Umpire issued penalties for things like taking a short cut, showing up late, organizing the event for the cruisers -- basically anything for which he could make up an excuse -- good or not. The penalty was that the `guilty` party had to drink a beer when given a signal during a Hasher`s anthem and if not done by the end of the anthem (about 10 seconds total), they had to pour the remainder of the beer on their head. It was quite a fun exercise, actually.

We got back to the ship in plenty of time to board before we departed at 5:30. The Cruise to Runners had a formal dinner in one of the dining rooms. We had supper with Bob and Karen from Mississauga Ontario, and Don and Sharon from Indiana. I was quickly wiped out of $200 at the Casino again. Couldn`t do anything right, yet again.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Cruise to Run - Tortola

This morning we landed in the island of Tortola. The `run` today was from the ships docks to the top of one of the mountains not far away. The elevation was 947 feet and we climbed to that elevation from the docks in about 2 kilometres. It was the slowest 2 kilometres I`ve ever run -- because it was more of a `walk`. My quads were screaming at me on the way up and it was quite the accomplishment to make it to the top. Jenny and I did it in about 22 minutes -- 11 minutes per kilometre! But it was worth it. The view of the harbour and town was incredible! And no matter how long it took to get to the top, everyone was proud that they`d seen it through to the end.

In the afternoon we walked a couple of kilometres down to the sugar cane / cotton mill factory museum. There was no mandatory entrance fee, but we contributed $20 to the organization. They had all sorts of artifacts from the island -- nothing pristinely preserved, mind you. But it was interesting to see how the island had evolved from one using quite primitive tools to what it is today.

On the way back from the museum, we stopped by a collection of nicely-painted store-shacks at the traffic lights outside the docks area and found two vendors side-by-side in one hut, each offering a collection of both Caribbean and international beers. Jed, Cathy and I sampled a range of beers including Tigrebrau stout and Presidente, both brewed in the Dominican Republic. Tigrebrau was like lunch in a bottle, a thick stout and a bit sweeter than, say, Guinness.

We had supper with Brenda, Lisa, Heidi and Ann that night, and then proceeded to the lounge to watch Gary DeLena, a comedian/musician who was quite funny. After that, I went to the casino and managed to lose $175 (7 x $25 bet) in about 10 minutes. I couldn't seem to do anything right.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Cruise to Run - St. Thomas

Today we were in St. Thomas. Our first official run was a `prediction run` where the goal was to predict your finish time for the 5k run. It was here that I got a good grasp of the scale of the Cruise to Run. They had a school steel drum band to provide music at the start. We had chip timing. A local girl`s school did a water stop along the route. We had police there to allow us to start up the blocked-for-race roads safely. Representatives of the St. Thomas tourist authority were there to welcome us, and we bought shirts (or made donations) to support the local running club. A lot of things for Jerry and Jody to organize and hope everything shows up as scheduled well in advance of the run.

The run was hot, as you`d expect, and it certainly wasn`t flat, which made hitting the prediction time a bit more challenging. I had predicted that I`d go out and back at a bit slower than `marathon pace` -- so I targeted a 26:10 finish. As I was coming up to about a kilometre left to go, I asked the gentleman next to me what his target time was. When he said something in the 23 minute range, I knew I was too fast and slowed right down. My finish time was 25:13 -- just 57 seconds faster than I`d predicted. But the highlight for that run was that I came in just in front of Dick Beardsley! Now, to be fair, this was a `prediction` run, so we weren`t trying to go our fastest -- just our most consistent and predictable pace. And Dick was coming off knee surgery plus a slough of injuries over the past 25 years that we`d hear about later. But it still felt good to see his name next to mine in the results!

Jenny had predicted 28:35 but was slower by about a minute and a half. Jed and Cathy ran together about a minute and 20 seconds faster than they had predicted. But Ann, whom we had met the day before in San Juan, was just 1 second off her predicted time and won the race!

That afternoon we walked into the town of Charlotte Amalie -- about a 40 minute (fast) walk from the cruise ships. We wandered around the straw market in the city centre, and then toured back on one of the side streets past all of the diamond and duty-free shops. I picked up a 13 oz. bottle of Johnny Walker scotch for my room (keeping it in my pants pocket as I went through security on the ship) for just $6.50. Scotch and other liquors were quite a bargain there -- even compared to the duty free shops at the Canada-US border. Unfortunately, we`d already purchased our limit on the way into the U.S. Next time, we`ll purchase while on the trip itself.

We had two beers that day. Jed and I each had a Caribe (sort of Corona-ish), brewed in the Dominican Republic, while we walked around the straw market. And then we had a Red Stripe (brewed in Barbados) at Jumbie`s Bar, located at the cruise line docks. Again, only $2 for a beer -- but the best part of that bar was their Marguerita ($4) into which they poured an ample amount of Tequila. Jenny, Cathy and I each had one.

We had supper in one of the table-service restaurants that night. I had to change out of my shorts and had neglected to bring any long pants, so I borrowed a pair (for the week) from Jed. The food throughout the trip was excellent, as was the service.

That night, the ship had left St. Thomas at around 6 pm so once we were in international waters, the casino opened up. I went there around 8:30 pm and was back in our state room by around 9 pm -- another $185 dollars richer from black jack. I couldn`t do anything wrong!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Cruise to Run - Departing San Juan

I got up early (and let Jenny sleep) in order to make the 8 am run out to the fort in San Juan -- about a 5k run there. It was _great_ to be amongst a bunch of people who just loved to go out for a run. One of the runners was a super-skinny guy with a bandage on his upper leg. That was Dick Beardsley -- one of America's best marathon runners back in the early 80's -- who came second in 1982 by 2.6 seconds in the Boston Marathon to Alberto Salazar in the race known as the 'Duel in the Sun' -- both of them breaking the previous Boston record with a 2:09 and change finish time. Running with Dick was sort of the equivalent of playing shinny hockey with Bobby Orr or throwing the ball around with Roger Clemens.

We met Brenda, Lisa, Heidi (all sisters) and their friend Ann -- all from near Hershey Pennsylvania. We met Mike who was the organizer of the race routes -- whose personal best marathon time was 3:09 a number of years ago. And we met Glenda from Napanee Ontario who was on a cruise a year and a half after losing her husband and who just started running (longest race was a half marathon). A young couple, Emily and Jon Roe, were there as well -- he flies with the U.S. Air Force and she does triathlons. It was a good run -- a bit fast at the end (running with Emily and John) -- clipping along at 5 minute k`s (8 min./mi.).

Checkout from the hotel was at noon so after going for a quick walk after getting cleaned-up, we headed back to Roscoe`s -- luggage in tow -- with Glenda, in order to have lunch. Glenda, Cathy and I had Mofongo (a chicken or beef stew incorporating a root vegetable -- highly recommended) and proceeded to stimulate the local economy by having a bunch of beers in order to re-hydrate from the morning's run. Raoul was our waiter and was excellent -- punctual and with a good sense of humour. If you are ever in San Juan, I'd highly recommend Rosco's.

We took a short taxi ride to the ship. Jenny had prepared me for lots of lineups based on her previous cruising experience. But I have to say that Princess Cruises was very punctual. We got into the lineup to drop off our luggage, which they informed us would be at the outside of our rooms in an hour. We then made our way into the lines to get checked into the ship, and then finally security. It was only about a half-hour until we were at our room, and our luggage was indeed there in about an hour. We met our room caretaker (Dennis -- pronounced Deh-ni, the French way) and then made our way to the top deck to watch the N.Y. Jets battle (and eventually lose to) the Baltimore Colts on the jumbo-tron above the pool. Jed is a _big_ Jets fan. After the game, we all got some supper at the buffet and then Jenny and I toured around the ship to get acquainted with everything.

Jenny packed it in around 10 pm, but I forced myself to stay up until 11:45 pm for the Casino to open. I was testing a new concept in playing blackjack and by midnight I was up $105 (7 times typical bet of $15) so I cashed-out and headed back to the room.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Cruise to Run - San Juan

We arrived in San Juan today from Detroit, in preparation for boarding the Caribbean Princess for Cruise to Run 2010 tomorrow. My legs were already a bit twichy as we hadn't been running since we did our hill training speed work on Tuesday - five days ago! The first run wasn't scheduled until the first port out of San Juan -- St. Thomas on the U.S. Virgin Islands -- but we chatted with Jerry Friesen whom we met in the Holiday Inn Express hotel lobby and he mentioned that a bunch of people were going to do a 10 k run out to the fort and back at 8 am tomorrow, before we board the ship on Sunday afternoon. We spent the rest of the day walking along the beautiful beach, and then 'pre-hydrating' for the next day's run. We met Bart Yasso and his wife -- Bart is the C.R.O. (Chief Running Officer) of Runner`s World magazine -- and Jed asked for some advice on speed-work for a half marathon (Yasso 400`s -- 400 m at your finish time (e.g. 1 min. 35 sec. if you want to do a 1:35:00 half marathon) plus 200 m. rest x 20 repeats).

The beer of the day was Medalla (pronounced meh-di-ya) Light -- a beer brewed in San Juan. It was quite good -- sort of Coors Light-ish. The bar/restaurant of the day was Orozco's -- they had inexpensive Medalla ($2) and $4 for a 'Sunset' -- very friendly and punctual wait staff where we met a couple of girls celebrating a 53rd birthday (neither remotely looked in their 50's). We had supper down the road on Ashford Street at a nice little Italian restaurant, next to Tijuana's (into which we tried to get, but the lineup was too long).

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Hill work / speed work

Today Jenny and I did an 8k speed work / hill work session. 1k of warm up plus 7 x 500 m. of hills at, basically, as fast as we could go without puking. 500 m. cool down run between each uphill leg took us to 8k in total. Jenny's calf in one of her legs was still a bit sore from the long run we did on Sunday -- but she still managed to bang out consistent 2:32 to 2:35 500m. uphill legs and finally managed to slow down to 2:40 for the last leg. My hill runs ranged from 2:17 at the start to 2:06 at the finish, so I was reasonably happy with those times.

There was a light snow falling while we were running and the road was wet but not too slippery. Certainly our last hill work session (on dry roads) was a bit faster. But I was satisfied that I worked hard enough to build some muscle and, hopefully, some speed with tonight's run.

Overall -- with the speed segments and the slow cool-down segments -- we were at 6 minutes per kilometer. Not bad, really.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Long Run - 28k

Jenny and I did our long run today, starting from our house with a scenic (in the fog) route to Lucan, a 10 k route around Lucan, and then a 7.5k run back. The temperature was -3 degrees C. when we started and about 1 degree C when we finished. Foggy when we started, but pretty clear when we finished 3 hours later.

At the start, Jenny wanted to do no faster than 5:40/k (9:04 per mile) and in fact we did an average of 5:41/k (9:05/mile). We started in the 5:40-5:50/k range and by the finish we were consistently around 5:30/k with our last mile at a 5:10/k (8:16/mile) pace.

It was a good run. Took us 2:38:26 to do the 27.9k distance. We were both tired by the end, but feeling good. Not out of breath -- but glad to be done.

We get a two weekend break from long runs as we do the Cruise to Run beginning next weekend. Starting in San Juan, Puerto Rico and then going to St. Thomas, Tortola, Antigua, St. Lucia, Barbados and then back to San Juan. There is a run in each port (other than San Juan). Should be fun!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

9.5 Mile Tempo Run

The weather was cooperating tonight -- probably about 1 degree above zero Celcius -- so compared to when we started training in December, it was downright balmy! We ran just over 15 kilometres -- roughly 9.5 miles -- at a pace of between 8:07 and 8:24 per mile. The average pace (including the warm up and cool down) was 8:30 per mile.

We didn't get the normal "runner's high" after this run, though. In fact, I feel like crap now. Think I may have caught a bug or something. Taking it easy tonight.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Hills - 6 x 500 m.

We did 6 repeats of 500 m. hills -- from the base of Fallon Road to the top of the hills on Coursey Line about 500 m. on either side of Fallon. Brian Watson joined us tonight as he is officially starting his training to try to set a 2:55 PR in the Mississauga Marathon (I believe) in May or June this year.

My repeats of the 500 m. hill climbs (roughly the same as Heartbreak Hill along the Boston Marathon route) were: 2:10, 2:09, 2:07, 2:10, 2:12 and 2:03. Jenny was anywhere from 16 to 20 seconds slower than me -- so quite good no matter how you look at it!

The weather was not bad -- about -5 degrees C. with no wind to speak of. Traffic along the road was light -- the occassional car, truck or snowmobile. Footing was okay -- not perfect, but better than other days when we were running on loosely-packed snow (like running on sand).

We both felt good after the run! (Now I go to play hockey in about an hour!)

Training for the 2010 Boston Marathon

It's been a long while since my last post -- 2 days after the 2009 Boston Marathon to be exact -- and a lot has happened from a marathoning perspective. Specifically, my wife Jenny ran her first marathon in Grand Rapids, Michigan and qualified for Boston in her very first try. And she beat her BQ time by over 15 minutes, running it in 3:45:49!

So now we're training for this year's Boston Marathon, which is being held on Monday, April 19, 2010.

Jenny has put together the training plan and we're getting out for a speed work, tempo run and long run each week -- no matter what the weather. Plus I'm playing hockey 1 or 2 times a week, and I'm also exercising my horse 3 or 4 times a week. So I have between 7 and 9 athletic events each week, which is keeping the muscles feeling like they're being worked.

I'm going to try to make posts more often. They won't be exciting -- more of 'Speed work tonight. 6 x 500 m. ' -- but it will at least let me keep a web log of our progress.

I'm not sure yet what I'm going to run in Boston. The two options I'm considering are to pace Jenny and simply enjoy the run, or train hard and try to get a Boston PB upright and smiling. Probably won't make the decision until a few weeks prior to the race. In the meantime, Jenny's training times are close enough to what I need to do that I'll run with her for tempo and long runs, and do my own pace for speed work.