I THOUGHT THIS WAS A BLOG — ABOUT RUNNING!

08.08.2015

Well, yes. It is a blog and it is generally about running. However, the blogger has been a bit delinquent as it comes to the blogging duties.

Fortunately, he has been a little less so where it comes to the running part. To a degree, the blogger has been “running scared”. It has been, to say the least, an awkward year as far as running has been concerned. It has surely had its ups and downs, or more accurately, ons and offs.

March 11/15  One done, one to go!

March 11/15 One done, one to go!

2015 started out with a trip in January to Winnipeg to meet the brand new grandson, Jonah. It was a too short trip and while no attempt was made to run in the Winnipeg winter, along with the trip came a cold (caught on the flight) that may have even been some form of the flu going around last winter. Whatever, it took several weeks to feel OK enough to really run. Then came the first cataract surgery and three weeks of ‘no sweating’ during recovery. OK. That left just about enough time to prepare for the four half marathons run in the first two weeks of May (OK, three halfs and a 25K to be precise), followed by a couple of 5K’s, one being the first race with the other grandson, Charlie. It was a fairly productive set of races with an age group first, two seconds and a third. That was fun! It also proved out my strategy to just keep running until everyone else gets too old and quits.

Big Cottonwood Marathon

Big Cottonwood Marathon

THEN, came the second eye surgery and three more weeks off. The good news was that the surgery got moved up twice and in the end was almost five weeks earlier than originally planned. I had signed up to do the Big Cottonwood Half Marathon in Utah, in September, but with the longer stretch for training, am tempted to give the full marathon another go. It was a great race last year with a very satisfying result for me. Had they not enticed me by taking four of the toughest miles out of a tricky ‘net zero’ out and back and put them up the mountain for even more downhill running, I’d have probably stuck with the Half. However, enticed I have been and am trying to see if I have the training to give that full marathon another go.

Charlie celebrates running into new territory (distance)!

Charlie celebrates running into new territory (distance)!

So none of this really explains the absence from blogging. In addition to all of the above, we have been on a couple of weeks of family related travel which has included a birthday for Charlie, a wedding for a nephew and, well just another visit to the other grandson, Jonah, and his family in Winnipeg. That is where we are now. There has been a lot of driving and lots of great visiting/celebrating and there HAS BEEN running, just not much time to blog about it.

I thought I was going to write about the Pan Am Games, but that didn’t happen. Maybe there will be some reflections later, but for now it has passed as anything resembling news or being a current topic.

What is this “running scared” thing? Well, it is kind of strange. Over the years I have had lots of interruptions to training and racing and just worked my way back. This seems different though. As I get older there is a bit more urgency to certain things. Also, a bit more difficulty. Time off takes even more time to return to form and as I go along, sometimes it feels like I won’t be able to do so. (So far that has proven not to be the case, but it hasn’t stopped the worry.)

IMG_3343While other races are coming in the Fall, including an added bonus that the Marathon Maniacs and Half Fanatics have chosen the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon as the first International Reunion, and if at all possible there will be a return to Negril for the 15th Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K, the focus is on Big Cottonwood. I’ve kind of messed with my own mind on this. I am perfectly confident I can be ready for a good half marathon, but I have shifted focus to the marathon and whether I can do it or not. Certainty on that front is NOT a given and that is where the feeling of urgency and ‘fear’ is coming into the picture. The last thing I want is another mediocre result. I have all of those I really need. With the move of four of the toughest miles up the mountain for pleasant downhill running and true familiarity with the remaining out and back section (which I had none of last year), I figure there is a good 10-15 minutes to be had and a time of which I’d be super proud.

Running volume is OK and I’m only a little behind the schedule I need to keep in order to feel ready for the Revel Big Cottonwood Marathon. The problem is that I am pushing a bit and finding it hard to get the runs in that I need to do, particularly the long ones. Weather has created some of the issues for good running and the locations (while  traveling) where I have very little idea of where I’m going. Thank goodness I have my trusty Garmin Connect route planner. Even still, and yesterday’s 20K run was a good example, there is a bit of stress in running a route you don’t know. You must pay a lot more attention to where you are and where you are going than when running a familiar route. In general, I was happy with the run, but not so happy with how tired I felt. Oh, I can explain a lot of reasons why it may have been more taxing than a body would hope, including the familiarity factor already noted and humidity that was actually shocking for where we are (did I mention the weather as a factor?). But, we tend to psychologically dismiss these factors when we think things should feel a certain way, well at least I do.

Running Down Big Cottonwood Canyon - My most recent marathon.

Running Down Big Cottonwood Canyon – My most recent marathon.

I know that I have four more clear weeks of training, plus a short taper between now and Big Cottonwood. I know it can be run with a minimal marathon prep (compared to what I would normally do). I know it is a wonderful course with the kind of downhill running I love. Finally, I know that if I’m not ready for a marathon, I’m actually registered to run the half anyway! BUT I WANT TO RUN THE MARATHON! The good news is that by next weekend we will be back in Vancouver and I will be back to my usual clinic routine with Forerunners and back on track to have a couple of 30K LSDs done before heading for Utah. And, this time I even have a week of high altitude acclimatization before the race (which will now start at something near 10,000 feet for the marathon).

Technically, since we will almost certainly be in Victoria for the race weekend, I could run the marathon there. It is, in fact, the target race for the Forerunners Clinic. While that is all well and good, I don’t want to run another marathon for the sake of it. I want to run one with a snappy time, even if it is almost all downhill. Hey! You still have to run it, and it isn’t as easy as I may make it sound.

I hoped yesterday’s run would be a) a bit longer than what it was (missed a loop I intended to do) and b) a bit easier than it felt. I hoped, even at about 22km, it would give me the confidence that the remaining training was going to get me where I want to go. Intellectually, I am still fairly sure that it will all be fine. Mentally, maybe not so much. Still, my prep for the early May half marathon extravaganza went through a similar phase where everything was HARD right up to when it wasn’t. Thing is, I had hoped to be there now. As I look back I can see I’ve pushed fairly hard since I was able to get back to running after the eye surgery and that combined with the age factor is probably the real reason I feel as I do at this precise moment. One bit of good news is that although I was pretty spent after the run yesterday, today I feel quite good. Recovery (speed of) has always been a tool by which I measure my fitness. Doesn’t matter how bad you feel running a long way or even up a tough hill, what counts is how soon you are feeling good again.

Nifty new Asics shoes.

Nifty new Asics shoes.

One thing that has disturbed me is that the old knees have been kind of tender. I’ve been messing with a couple of different brands and types of shoes (kind of an experiment) and lost track of how much distance I’ve put on my ‘go to’ shoes. When I sat down and really looked, it turns out I have put much more than normal on those shoes and a good close inspection even shows how ‘crushed’ they are. Time for a new pair as soon as I get home! I’m sure (because it always does) that will improve how the knees feel and for that matter, maybe the weariness I’m feeling in the rest of the leg. I’m always aware of issues with my left leg/knee that may result from overwork and such, but when both knees start bothering it is almost always the shoes. With all the on-off running this year, I sort of lost track of or discounted the actual amount of distance put on my main training shoe. As it turns out, the timing is probably pretty good to get into a new pair and break them in, just in time for Big Cottonwood (whichever distance I do).

Well, thanks for listening to my personal tale of woe. I always consider before writing blogs as personal as this one, whether or not it might ring a bell with others. Hopefully, recounting some of my feelings and thought processes will be helpful now or in the future, to at least a few readers!

Editor’s Note: Don’t forget, Running in the Zone is also available in e-format. Skip the shipping cost and time! And, you get the writing and wisdom of 25 other runner/writer types who aren’t me.

PLACES I’VE RUN/PLACES I’VE RACED

06.24.2015
Running the High Country Trails

Running the High Country Trails

Someone was talking about wonderful and favourite places they’d run and I knew instantly that this post needed to be written. The hard part is going to be controlling myself and second hardest will be not kicking my own butt all over the place where it comes to missed opportunities to race. Well, here goes. [Oh, and this has to be the most ‘link heavy’ post I’ve ever written, but hey, if I’m going to entice with photographs and descriptions, the least I can do is tell you how to find these events for yourself!]

For me, there is a BIG difference between the places I’ve run and places I’ve raced, especially if we limit to countries. “Places” get more extensive if you include States and Provinces, of course. At last count I believe I had RUN in at least 23 sovereign countries. However, I have only RACED in 4 countries. I guess we can start there. Naturally, being a Canajun and all, I’ve raced in Canada. I have also raced in the United States, Belgium and Jamaica. I’ve raced in 3 Provinces (run in 9) and raced in 8 States. This is where I get all misty about the squandered opportunities because I’ve lived in more Provinces than I’ve raced in and spent three years in Europe and nearly two in Malaysia. Out of those five years, I only raced in Belgium, notwithstanding all the travel I managed to do to nearby countries. Oh, I got my runs done in some amazingly exotic places, but not races. Naturally, there is nothing wrong with ‘just running’, but I do race, so………..oh, never mind. What’s done is done. And, I guess when you get down to it, I’m not – done that is.

Inaugural BAA 5K - 2009 They let us borrow THE finish!

Inaugural BAA 5K – 2009 They let us borrow THE finish!

Now this isn’t about me and how many places I’ve run. It is about how many amazing places I’ve run. Beauty being in the eye of the beholder, that doesn’t narrow things down all that much. Some of the “beauty” has to do with the physical location and some with the circumstance. For instance, one of my great unaccomplished goals is to qualify for and run the Boston Marathon. Haven’t bagged that yet, but I did run the inaugural BAA 5K, back in 2009 while supporting our daughter Janna as she tackled the main event. That was really special for any number of obvious reasons, ‘borrowing’ the Marathon finish was definitely one of them. It may be the closest I come to crossing that hallowed and iconic finish.

Spring Running in Vancouver. Near Granville Island

Spring Running in Vancouver. Near Granville Island

To simplify this a bit, I’m just going to go with a few of the MOST amazing places I’ve run OR raced without separating into categories.

Something I do from time to time, since I have had a wonderful opportunity to travel is to look at my present location and wonder how a visitor would see it. We used to live on False Creek, just near Vancouver’s famous Granville Island. The seawall promenade is second to none, and that was my normal running area at one time. Even now, some of the clinic training routes I use with our Forerunners group goes along the same area. While we are at it, Vancouver offers several major races and even more minor races that use roads and paths that border English Bay, False Creek and the famous Stanley Park Seawall. On a nice day, the vistas are spectacular, both depending on where you are and regardless of where you are. In other words, what you are seeing may be different, but all equally amazing.

As amazing as it is, sometimes it rains.

As amazing as it is, sometimes it rains.

For anyone wondering how to get in on this, the major races include (by time of year): First Half Half Marathon (February – registration sells out in one day near beginning of November), Vancouver Sun Run (April), BMO Vancouver International Marathon [and Half and 8K](May), Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon [and 5K](June), Seawheeze Half Marathon (August), Oasis Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon & Cunningham 10K (two races/two days)(October). These are only the events with a few thousand to several thousand (Vancouver Marathon events now push a total of 15,000 participants). There are many many more smaller races ranging from 5K to Half Marathon. For information on those you can consult the BC Athletics Race Calendar or go to the Timex Series or Lower Mainland Road Race Series to find specific events. Many follow similar routes, or parts thereof, used by the named races above. A lot of events now use some part of Stanley Park and are not to be missed even in what might be considered ‘off season’. Running in the mists in the Park is special in and of itself, although I DO prefer the sunshine.

Daughter and Dad do Victoria Half - photo by Brightroom

Daughter and Dad do Victoria Half – photo by Brightroom

Before I launch off to more exotic parts, I would be terribly remiss if I did not give a nod to the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon [Half and 8K]. That one is in October (Canadian Thanksgiving). Much of the course runs through a big park and/or along the shore. It definitely rivals those Vancouver routes. For me, it has been a ‘go to’ event since 2000, when I ran my second marathon there. In the last 15 years I have run either the half or full marathon some 11 times. Guess I like it! A lot.

For that matter, so do the kids. I think only once in those eleven times have I run Victoria alone. One or both of Janna (in the picture to the left) and Danielle (big sister) have run the event with me. We don’t always run the same race with one of us sometimes doing the full and the other(s) the Half, but we have been there together more times than not. AND, while we are at it, Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes was launched at the Victoria Marathon weekend.

OK, so what about some of these other more distant and exotic places?

Balinese Beach Path

Balinese Beach Path

I think I’ll start somewhere I’ve run, but not raced – Bali. You might have to ask if that is wise, since you might think it couldn’t get much more exotic. Well, I guess I will take a chance. There are a lot of large resorts in an area known as Nusa Dua, then past there along a narrow peninsula you will find many small resorts. The whole thing is a beach from one end to the other and from one end to the other there is a pathway. What a place for a nice lazy run. Warm? Yes, of course. You are practically at the Equator (south of, to be precise). The thing is, there really is no need to hurry, so just enjoy!

I guess this opens the idea of a few warm places where people tend to vacation, so maybe I’ll just stick with a few of those for the moment. The astute reader will notice there are a lot of beach running photographs in this grouping. What can I say? I love running on beaches when I’m on vacation!

Sunrise over the Reggae Marathon

Sunrise over the Reggae Marathon

I suppose I might as well jump right to my favourite exotic race, the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K, held the first weekend of December in Negril, Jamaica. It is so hard to select one representative photograph that does justice to the event as a race while ignoring all the other wonderful shots I’ve taken of Negril per se, the pre and post-race festivities and the ‘pure’ beach run done on all the other non-race days. I don’t often carry a camera while running, so action shots from the race are few and far between anyway. I decided that for this one, I would post a sunrise shot because the sun rising IS an integral part of the Reggae Marathon. All races start in the dark at 5:15am, so most runners are treated to this sight at some point in whichever race they have chosen to do. So far, I’ve run the Half three times and the 10K once.

Maui Marathon - 2008

Maui Marathon – 2008

But, the Reggae Marathon events were not my first tropical race. Nope, the Maui Marathon in September of 2008 has that honour. Like the Reggae Marathon, it starts early, in the dark. It is emotionally stirring to hear the sound of the drums and Hawaiian prayer just before the start. Running is both flat and not too bad as far as heat goes, until about the time the sun comes up. Now, depending how good a runner you are, full sun is only a factor after half way. However, the year I ran it was one of the hottest ever at 90F with 90% RH! OH, and some VOG (volcanic smog) thrown in to make it a bit more interesting, but what scenery, and most of the second half is, yep, near the beach.

Running at Coolangatta, QLD

Australian beach run – Coolangatta, Queensland

It is hard to decide just what Australian beach to feature, but I think this photograph captures the essence of East Coast Australia. If you look really closely, that is Surfer’s Paradise way in the background. Soft powdered sugar sand is not ideal for running in if you want to go fast, but it sure is fun otherwise.

We have visited Australia a couple of times and I’ve yet to find a race that worked with our timing. Oh well. I am happy to report many great runs along the East Coast (and no, they weren’t all on a beach like this, but near, very near). And then there is the West Coast, where the most spectacular of the selection of runs was near Busselton, where again, there is a beach-side pathway for walking, cycling and running. One thing Australia has no shortage of is white sand and blue water.

But, not every suitable place to run in Australia is beside one ocean or another. In Sydney there is the botanical gardens and in Melbourne, many neighbourhood, riverside and park venues. Some of those were shown to me by a former club member from one of my Canadian running clubs, Pacific Road Runners. These are the hidden gems you will never find without a local to guide you. Yay for the locals!

Greenery at the Singapore Botanic Gardens

Greenery at the Singapore Botanic Gardens

Just a few of the MANY orchids in the Botanic Garden

Just a few of the MANY orchids in the Botanic Garden

I suppose that while in the area, I have to say I’ve enjoyed a good many runs in Malaysia. We lived there almost two years and I ran as many as five days a week, so indeed I have run in Malaysia. Of course that makes places like Singapore (where I ran my fist EVER tropical run) with its fabulous Botanic Garden where, in the very early morning, you will find walkers, runners and any number of tai chi groups. When I went looking for some great photos of the gardens, I was reminded how hard it is to ignore the scenery in the Garden. So, just enjoy these couple of shots and we will carry on.

It was while living in Malaysia that we made our first visit to Bali. Needless to say, we also used it as a jumping off place for more than one visit to Thailand. Thai’s are renowned for being polite, but the sight of this old geezer jogging along in the sunshine was too much for most of them. I KNOW they thought I was crazy! Not saying that isn’t true. They may have had a point, but I love running in the heat and long ago learned how to keep the pace reasonable and make sure I have water with me and a hat to cover my head.

Big Cottonwood Course

Big Cottonwood Course

Some Locals Watched My Training Run

Some Locals Watched My Training Run

Well, so much for the exotic (by far off location and beauty of the beach). That is hardly where it begins and ends. Mountains go high up there on the list of amazing. As I think about it, I’ve run AND raced through a few mountain areas that rival any beach. My last marathon was the Big Cottonwood Marathon, just outside Salt Lake City, UT. The course provides one breath-taking vista after another (unless that was just the altitude – starts near 9,000 ft). As I was preparing to talk about this race, I recalled that one of my training runs involved the kind of scene you never forget! It is probably not the best photo I’ve ever taken, but it was one of the most delightful scenes with a doe and her young’un. This time, I had my cell with me for safety, so I also had a camera. A fortunate thing!

First Look at Mt Hood - from Leg #1

First Look at Mt Hood – from Leg #1

One mountain race that gets big marks for Spectacular (I’ve done it eight times) is the Hood to Coast Relay. Hard to beat this one. Starts on a mountain and finishes at a beach. Two of my favourite things! Like Singapore above, it is hard to pick the best photo. I’ve got lots of hand-offs and finishes and people drinking beer at the beach at the end, but it is so hard to capture everything about this race, so I just decided to go with a great photo of Mount Hood. This one is probably on the first Leg. (When you are running, you don’t see this. It is behind you, and I generally run Leg #1!)

Half Way to a DFL - Frosty Mountain

Half Way – Frosty Mountain Endurance Race

A mountain that I have hiked a number of times and raced a couple of times is Mount Frosty in Manning Park, BC. The area is truly spectacular and the Frosty Mountain Trail Race is both beautiful and challenging, with a 3800 ft vertical in the first half. I’ve run the race twice. At my pace, it is always worth the stop at the highpoint to take in the view!

Rocky Mountains above Fairmont Hot Springs

Rocky Mountains above Fairmont Hot Springs

Running in the mountains need not mean racing and for that matter, need not mean Summer either. Winter running is a ‘thing’ too. Having lived in places where Winter actually happens (doesn’t all that much around Vancouver), you learn to love the snow and cold (within reason). I’ve had a lot of enjoyable snowy runs, but selected a New Year vacation in the Columbia Valley of BC, with the Rocky Mountains rising majestically over the valley. Deer prints in the snow and what just may have been wolf prints too. Never saw either of the beasts that left the foot prints. Maybe I was too busy staring at those peaks.

Finish Set-Up CIM 2008

Finish Set-Up CIM 2008

Time to wrap this up before I wind up inserting a photo from almost every run I’ve done. However, I am going to say that running down the Napa Valley in the Napa Valley Marathon, or finishing your California International Marathon in front of the State Capital building, OR finishing the Eugene Marathon on Hayward Field, you get some pretty fine scenes to enjoy. How do you compare so many parts of the New York City Marathon to, well, anything?? And then, there is the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas “Run the Strip at Night” party. A big surprise was the little park I found hidden in the heart of Kowloon, just across from Hong Kong. So pretty and with so many winding paths that you could get about 2.5km in on a single lap. If I was to start on some of the races that use Stanley Park or even just started talking about the training routes we use along the seaside paths and roads of Vancouver, it would take way too many more words and images and too much of your time. So, I am going to close by going back to something that is a big favourite: the early morning vacation beach run. The photo below was taken just a bit after I had finished my own run on the beach at Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Enjoy!

Morning Joggers

Punta Cana just after sunrise

 

EVERYONE SHOULD RUN NAKED (SOMETIMES)

06.18.2015
The 'ancient' form of "Run Naked"

The ‘ancient’ form of “Run Naked”

OK, we’ll get the obvious out of the way first. There is running naked (as in nude, as in ancient Olympics) and there is the current catchy term of “run naked” (as in no electronics, gadgets or similar).

Personally, I have done both; and while you can do the one just about anywhere, the other demands just a wee bit more discretion. Let me just say that if you aren’t clear which is which, you may want to go review your local civic bylaws before continuing here. I take no responsibility for anyone getting these two mixed up!

I’m not really sure who is hoping for what from this post, but the bulk of it is about the gadgetless form of ‘running naked’. If you were hoping for the other, maybe I’ll deal with it first and then you can go do something else.

Wreck Beach Bare Buns - Start

Wreck Beach Bare Buns – Start

I happen to live where there is an organized, timed, prized, nude race and in the interest of full disclosure, I have done it a number of times (5 or 6 I believe). This is the Wreck Beach Bare Buns Run. Because it is held on a tidal flat, the date and time depend on a suitably low tide to expose the course around the middle of the day. Generally it is near the beginning of August to max out the chance of warm sunny weather. The distance is 5K, but since the exposed beach is relatively small, it requires three laps of a somewhat zig-zag course. The sand is always a little bit different year to year. Depending on the winter storms, you may or may not encounter low spots and ‘puddles’ and in some areas there may be accumulations of sand that can dry out as the tide recedes, becoming interesting obstacles along the way. The wet sand is pretty firm and easy to run on. Wet spots (ankle deep’ish) are also easy enough, but hitting one of those sun-dried soft sand sections, or a deep ‘puddle’ can just kill your legs. Fortunately, it is all for fun, but it is timed and does attract some pretty fair runners. I think the record is about 17 minutes, which is pretty speedy over the course I just described with many tight turns thrown in just for fun. But, “You can leave your shoes on!” (Think Joe Cocker – You Can Leave Your Hat On.)

To run so, is quite liberating, not unlike the other kind of ‘run naked’ which I am about to get into. You can run ‘shy’ but you can’t win unless you go bare. Frankly, when everyone around is in their birthday suit you feel more conspicuous being clothed. A contributor to Running in the Zone (the book), Bart Yasso, has a fabulous chapter in “My Life on the Run” on running a sister race in Washington State.

OK. That’s it. Naked ‘naked running’ is done with now.

Running at Coolangatta, QLD

Australian beach run – Queensland

Seems to be all the rage now to ‘run naked’. That is, to run without a watch or gps system, without music, or any other distractions from JUST RUNNING. One of my favourite vacation things is to run barefoot on a beach, so not even shoes!

Early Morning Beach Runners - Negril, JA

Early Morning Beach Runners – Negril, JA

I suspect there are a lot of relatively new runners out there who may not realize that you CAN run without a Garmin or other gps device. I’ve been thinking about this topic for some while now, but was moved to do something by two things that happened this weekend. One was my own inadvertent naked run, followed by a Facebook post about running naked. And no, it wasn’t from one of my BB Run friends, so it was the non-tech-naked kind of running naked.

I have, for years, been a pace group leader for the Forerunners half and full marathon clinics. Generally, I do run with my trusty Garmin to ensure that I am keeping a proper pace in relation to the group I am leading. It is important to keep the advertised pace, not the one I feel comfortable doing on any given day. These runs are on Saturday mornings. This past Saturday I was up in plenty of time, but somehow got rushing around as the moment of departure neared and off I went, sans-tech. I don’t live anywhere near Forerunners, so once I realized I did not have my little digital friend, there was no going back to get it.

Typical route view on our clinic long run.

Typical route view on our clinic long run.

As it happened, there wasn’t anyone needing my ‘expert assistance’. (Happens this time of year as races start coming fast and furious.) However, the owner of the store who was once Canada’s premier marathoner, wanted to run with me. Off we went with me more than a little apprehensive about how this was going to go. Peter is a lot younger than me and even though his competitive years are well behind him and he endures the aftermath of the rigours of elite racing and training, his comfortable pace is generally not MY comfortable pace. Off we went. We ran, we chatted, sometimes he chatted while I huffed and puffed up a couple of very sturdy hills at the beginning of our 15K route, but I kept up and we ran on.

He is a fountain of historical info on the elite running days of his prime, but he keeps a close eye on the youngsters currently emerging. He knows who they are and what they are doing, and who coaches them and how ‘healthy’ they are at any given moment. Even though I don’t have anything like his wealth of knowledge, I love that sort of thing and he doesn’t usually leave me wondering what he’s talking about. The point is, neither of us had any technology with us while running. We ran and we talked. We knew where we were starting and finishing and that was it.

While it is hardly the first time I’ve ‘run naked’, it really made an impression on me because it was just so free and easy, and kind of pure. Peter still trains to  goals and so do I, but not this past Saturday.

Then, on Sunday, while roaming about on Facebook, a young woman I know posted about how glorious it had been ‘running naked in the sunshine’ of a fabulous late Spring day in Vancouver. She also quickly clarified the tech-free nature of what she meant. Several people chimed in and that was probably when I decided I needed to write this piece.

I guess there are people out there who run naked all the time. Those people just run. They generally don’t race. It is much easier when the whole point is just running for the pure joy of it. With a goal, the dynamic changes. PR, BQ, Podium. Those don’t happen without some attention to detail. Technology can help. I’ll get back to that in a minute.

One part of technology enhanced running that I don’t understand is music. I have never run with music. I so much prefer the idea of listening to the sound of my surroundings, my own breathing, footfalls on road or trail. I gather that some use music for the very purpose of obliterating some of those things – a distraction. I judge not, but feel that where safety is involved (in traffic or crowded race fields) music represents a danger. ‘Nuff said on that, except that when it comes to running naked, the music needs to stay home too. If you must ‘tune out’ from what you are doing, trying letting yourself slide into a meditative state (my topic in the Running in the Zone book).

Even a watch is kind of a tech tool, but is not of much use if you don’t have external distance markers, or even milestones to use it against as a form of pace monitoring. I do know people who run for a pre-determined time rather than using a route or distance. They just run out for Xhr/2 and then turn around and run back. For that you need some kind of timing device, or you will actually be running to distance. Otherwise, these folks pretty much run naked.

Running the forest trails.

Running the forest trails.

For the most part, I have a bunch of known training routes, so if I’m running on those routes, I’m probably using my technology. When I want to ‘just run’, there are some really nice wooded trails near here and I will just go for a lope through that bit of “urban forest”. Nothing like a quiet forest for a peaceful run.

So, getting back to the time and pace technology as promised above, truth be told, (and I’m not sure how many others do this), I don’t much consult my gps while running but rather after I get home and download to the computer where I can review what I really did. There are two times I do watch my Garmin. One is when I am pacing the training group. The other time is early in a race where I have a terrible tendency to start too fast.

Finishing in front of the 'Leg'

Finishing in front of the ‘Leg’

We tend to think of ‘run naked’ as a non-race thing, but that isn’t necessarily the case. The last best race I ran was the Victoria (Half) Marathon in 2012. I did have the Garmin, but I ran as much as I possibly could to a constant effort – that is, how I felt. When I reviewed the race later, I saw it was the closest I’ve ever come to the mythical negative split. Think there was maybe 10 seconds difference between the first and second half splits, and the time for last mile was almost identical to the first. This was probably as close as I come to “Racing Naked” these days! Got me thinking that maybe I should wear the gps unit in my next race (for the post-race records) but tape over the display and just run on feel. Hmmmm. Well, if I do, you will be the first to know.

So really, it is not hard to see how you can get caught up with your technology. As I said above, and just a little tongue in cheek, there are probably some relatively new runners that don’t know you CAN run without these things.

There is a school of thought that using the technology reduces our natural ability to sense pace. I’m not sure about that. At one point, I could ‘feel’ my pace very accurately. However, as I got older and well before we had gps devices to guide us, I started to feel that my inner sensor just wasn’t doing it. I kind of assume that when you can sense pace intuitively it is because you are fit and strong and know what it feels like to do a certain pace. As I have aged and as it gets harder to do the same things, abilities for sensing pace seem to diminish. One commentator on the running naked post on Facebook, a friend and good runner, offered that relying on technology may be stripping us of that inner sense. I’m sure there is some truth to that point of view, but I also think a lot of it is done on how it feels, so if it just becomes harder to do the same things, then you can’t go quite as accurately ‘by feel’. As you age, it seems there are more unexpected ups and downs that may not even be related to running as such, but which certainly impact how you ‘feel’ at any given time.

I often counsel my clinic charges that the best way to race a longer distance is to try to maintain a constant effort as I mentioned above re the Victoria Half Marathon. That isn’t quite the same as knowing your pace. For constant effort, use your comfortable pace on the flats. Maintain how that effort feels while going up a hill (you WILL go slower) and down the other side (you will go faster, but not as fast as you could). That is NOT even splits or pace, but rather even effort. Unless you are truly ‘one with your Garmin’ it can’t help you measure constant effort.

Another reason I use my Garmin is it represents an easy way to record and track my mileage. It also lets me chronicle my races for detailed review and instruction for future races. I am all for progress and modern technology as long as it enhances and doesn’t take over.

Charlie celebrates running into new territory (distance)!

Charlie celebrates running into new territory (distance)!

As I have written this and thought about it, I probably actually run ‘semi-naked’ most of the time. Huh?

Unless I have a very specific reason for consulting my tech device mid-run, I do run a lot on feel, regardless of whether I am as good at it as I once was. I won’t say I don’t sneak a look sometimes to see how far I’ve gone and/or how far I have to go. Generally that isn’t necessary in races, as they have distance markers but on training runs it is sometimes good to know. One exception was about a week ago when I ran my first race with our oldest grandson. Charlie had never run more than 2km and he was stepping up to 5K, actually 5.4K. As we passed the 2K point I let him know he was in new territory and that I was very proud of him. As each K ticked off, I announced that he had now run 3K, 4K and even 5K, because we were still 400m from the finish as we went through 5K. I think it gave him motivation and we finished strong!

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has discovered the joy of just running, but if you’ve been caught up in training and the technology to enhance it, including music, give a thought to getting out there now and then with just the bare minimum and run in the moment.

So. Who is up for a bit of naked running?

Your choice. Either kind. Actually, you COULD do both at the same time as long as you pick the right place. Now THAT would be liberating!!!

THE FAMILY THAT RUNS TOGETHER….

06.07.2015
And, the first race IS done!

And, the first race IS done!

Welcome to Phase II of Charlie Runs With His Grandad!

Well, that wasn’t what the previous post was called, but this IS the report of my big FIRST race with my grandson, Charlie. I suppose I could keep this really short and say it went great and I am so proud of him and happy to have been able to do this. But, what would be the fun in that???

We were both ‘into’ it ever since the idea came up a few months ago. Frankly, because through school and his min-tris, Charlie had only ever run about 2-2.5km, I had been looking around for a 3K somewhere. Not so easy, because there aren’t that many in the first place and secondly because we don’t exactly live in the same neighbourhood. In any case, Charlie was sure he was good to do a 5K and the Giant’s Head Run was right where he lives. Bonus on that was that it was the first official race I ever ran in my adult or second running career. Seemed the perfect fit. Oh, and just as a little extra challenge, the Giant’s Head 5K is really 5.4km. As long as I’ve known the race, it has used this course, so I guess instead of shortening to a true 5K upon finding it was a tad long, they just decided to be honest and call it what it is – 5.4K.

As was not unusual in the Okanagan at this time of year, it was also hot and sunny. That is one of the reasons they run the race in the evening.

Package Pick-Up - Check

Package Pick-Up – Check

We started off the day with a visit to Action Fest and to package pick-up and learned Charlie was #18 and I had #20. Did they think we were elites??

Apparently, it was mostly to do with how eager we were to sign up online! It was fun to dream for a moment though.

As race time drew near, I think we were both a bit nervous. We had never run together and Charlie had never run so far. We had our customized race hats on, complete with autographed brims. We each signed our names to the hats so we would each have a souvenir of the momentous event. I’m not sure about Charlie, but I know mine is going on the wall with other racing memorabilia, never to be worn in a race again.

Soon enough it was race time. And, we were off like a bunch of jack rabbits. I was trying more of the turtle approach, but Charlie felt we should run ‘medium’ – not too fast (his Mom and I had drummed that into him) but not TOOO slow either. I understood that, so let him go a little bit for the first few hundred metres before I reminded him of our plan. You will be pleased to know that I do not intend to describe every step of the race. What I will say is that Charlie got the picture fast that by taking it “medium” and even walking at strategic moments, we were already passing a lot of those runners that had gone out like little bullets. This is far from a flat race and most of the first half of it is more or less up. It rolls, but it is generally going up. Charlie started to get the rhythm and soon enough it was him calling the walk breaks and the runs. He was good at it too, conserving energy in the hot sun and running easily and smoothly when we did run. I was so impressed! Charlie is not quite nine, so this was pretty mature action on his part.

downhill

Almost done and a nice fast down bit to finish!

It didn’t take long before we were in new territory (distance) for him. I was wearing my Garmin to keep track of distance and pace. I announced the milestones as we went. It also helped that we had our bike-mounted photo and cheering team  (aka Charlie’s Mom and Dad) that popped up hera and there along the course. One feature of this route is that with just around 1K to go, you get back about half of the uphill climbing you had to do in the first half!

It was a struggle but our personal papparaza made it to the finish in time to catch our triumphant dash to the ‘tape’!

Cool water and a run well done!

Cool water and a run well done!

After what was a long and very hot race, we enjoyed some cooling refreshments, toasting our accomplishment and very first race. Charlie is clearly a wise beyond his years runner. He began incentifying his effort around 4K with visions of the soft-serve cone he wanted post-race. As you can see by my face, it looked pretty delicious!

Tutti-Frutti, Orange Cone.

Tutti-Frutti, Orange Cone.

I debated quitting now, but this is my story too. Earlier in the day we ran into some old friends and running buddies from faster times (for all of us). Don and Linda were very good runners back in those days and it brought back lots of memories. Anyway, cutting to the chase, when all was said and done I was a bit surprised and a whole lot pleased to learn that Charlie had paced me to a Third Place M60+ and Don had taken Silver! I know one thing for sure, this podium sharing was not a part of the past!

Apparently, we are planning for the 10K next year!  I guess we’ll see about that, but you never know!

THE CIRCLE OF (RUNNING) LIFE

05.31.2015
Running in the 80s

Running in the 80s

Well, that title sounds a bit profound and for me, it is. As you will shortly see, it refers to coming to the ‘end’ of something, but the beginning of something else.

Enough of the cryptic and weighty commentary. Let’s get right down to it.

Somewhere in the murky depths of the history of my life, I became shocked and distressed at my personal state of fitness and decided to do something about it. The murky part is related only to exactly how old I was (39, I believe). The moment of shock that got me doing something about it is quite memorable. I was at a dance in Summerland, BC giving it my all, to ‘Rasputin’. It is a) long and b) very energetic to dance to. I suddenly realized I was out of breath and my heart was pounding and I actually had to sit down.  AAAAAUUUNNCHCCH (supposed to be the sound of a loud buzzer, like in a sporting event or when you get the wrong answer on a quiz show).

What to do? I had been quite active and athletic in my younger days: baseball, soccer, track and field and kind of up for anything active in nature. Interestingly, one of my sports, soccer, gave me an injury that had made another (running) fairly impossible. I jammed my left knee very badly, ending my  career in soccer. Although I was playing for UBC at the time, I was not a future star of the game and life was demanding more of my time. The injury was kind of a punctuation point to something that was probably already in the works. After healing up I could sprint short distances and walk great distances. What I couldn’t do was what we then called ‘jogging’. After about a mile the pain in my knee was terrible and very sharp. I actually tried a number of times over the years, but right around that ‘mile’ mark there would be the pain.

Flash forward to the fateful dance. Once I caught my breath, I knew I had to do something. Since running is such an important base for so many other exercises, I decided I would start there. If a mile was my limit, I would just run a mile. Every day. And so it began.

I was pretty religious about. I have no idea how long I did this, but I would get to the mile and even though things were feeling fine, I would quit. It seemed better to get my daily mile in than to revive the injury. What if I tried maybe a mile and a half, a couple of Ks?  Hmmm. Nothing. Two miles ? Well, you get the picture. Whatever I had done, the knee was working just fine. I do wonder what might have happened (for my PBs) had I done this in my late twenties rather than being almost 40. We’ll never know.

Before moving to something more demanding, I decided I should really see my doctor, Don Williams, (for the info of any old time Summerlanders ). Well, Don was a runner and after a proper check, enthusiastically endorsed my intentions. There are other stories flowing out of that check-up, but we’ll save that for another post. The result was that I targeted my first race and began training. The race was the Giant’s Head 5K, part of the Summerland Action Festival.

THAT was the beginning. I believe it was 1985.

I soon got a bit like Forrest Gump and just kept on going, running my first marathon something like three years after that first GH 5K (first photo at the top of this post). Anybody who reads this blog or knows me doesn’t need a recap of the running I’ve done. By an informal count I am well over 200 races plus all the underlying training. Over 60 of those races are half or full marathons.

Start Line - Giant's Head Run (5K/10K) - 1986

Start Line – Giant’s Head Run (5K/10K) – 1986

This weekend I will return to Summerland to run the Giant’s Head 5K once again, completing the cycle some 30 years later. But, there is more, a lot more. This is also the beginning of something, far more than any kind of ‘ending’. On June 6, I will run my very first race with our grandson Charlie! I am very excited about this and so is he. Although he lives in Summerland with his parents and we now live near Vancouver, it is all going to come together on the roads of Summerland on Saturday evening.

Judi Cumming at the Finish

Judi Cumming at the Finish

Danielle (Cumming) Krysa - GH Run 1986

Danielle (Cumming) Krysa – GH Run 1986

Running is kind of a family thing and the Giant’s Head Run represents our collective entry point to everything that has followed. The accompanying set of finish photos (some admittedly, not the greatest photography) is from 1986 as far as I can deduce. From wife Judi, through all three of our kids, Danielle, Janna and Cameron, all are represented. Over the years, I have run with all of them, especially the kids, in our big Half Marathon Challenge, where I ran a half marathon with each offspring when she or he was half my age. I’ve run races with both sons-in-law too and can’t wait to somehow make it happen with the newest grandson, Jonah. Considering our relative ages, him being just five months old and all, that may have to be with him in a jogging stroller.

Janna Cumming - GH Run 1986

Janna Cumming (in pink) – GH Run 1986

 

Cam Cumming - GH Run 1986

Cam Cumming – GH Run 1986

But, the focus now is on me returning to Summerland to close the circle by running this year’s Giant’s Head 5K, and to begin an entirely new era of running things with Charlie. This is the first event, but I surely hope it isn’t going to be the last. I am hoping he will be gentle with his old Grandad and not kick my butt on the first outing. Charlie’s Dad, Greg, seems to like triathlon more than pure running. Charlie, considering his Dad a hero, as any boy should, has followed down the path of getting into triathlons. He has

My competition at the Giants Head Run - June 6!

My competition at the Giants Head Run – June 6!

been doing kids’ mini-tri events for a couple of years now. I’m not 100% certain of the final arrangement, but it may be that Greg will run the GH 10K, giving us a three generation presence in the Giant’s Head running events. Danielle was thinking about it, but her son quite astutely pointed out that SOMEBODY had to cheer and take photographs. He has a point! Sorry Danielle, maybe next time. I mean if somebody doesn’t do that, how will I be able to write the fully illustrated post-race story of how all this turns out?

Stay tuned then, for the report on the Giant’s Head 5K, both the end and beginning of an era of running in the life of the family of this old blogger and ‘jogger’.

 

AND NOW FOR SOMETHING NEW – SORT OF

05.06.2015
Calm before the 'storm' - 6:00am May 3, 2015

Calm before the ‘storm’ – 6:00am May 3, 2015

The past weekend was pretty fun and exciting. It was my first race of 2015 but more significantly (to me) my first the M70-74 age category. There is no stretch of logic to point out it was also my first half marathon run at the BMO Vancouver Marathon weekend. Apart from my own ‘firsts’ it was one of those races that just couldn’t have been much better. The day was near perfect and the half marathon course is a gem. I had no expectations of my own race, something I’ll explain in a bit, but was thrilled to see that one of Canada’s budding prospects in distance running, Rob Watson, won the Half Marathon, and did so going away. That was good, but the Olympic qualifying window is open with a standard of 2:12:50, and Rob is looking to make his first assault on the standard at the Ottawa Marathon on May 31. Vancouver was his set-up event for Ottawa. Of course, even if he does go under the standard, that only gets him into the ‘lottery’. There are at least three other gents named Wykes, Coolsaet and Gillis who may have something to say on the matter. Still, it looks like three will go and if Robbie can get himself under that standard the odds are pretty good, marathoning being what it is and all.

Ellie Greenwood wins Comrades 2014

Ellie Greenwood wins Comrades 2014

Another friend I watched lay down a marker is Ellie Greenwood. Miss Ellie doing well in a race is not really remarkable. She won the Vancouver Marathon a couple of years back, so what is exciting about her Third Place on Sunday? Well, locals in the Vancouver running community as well as her fellow ultra-runners know she suffered a badly broken hand in a bike/car confrontation recently. She was on the bike. She lost. Her medical team forbade running for several weeks. Ellie is the defending champion at Comrades. Ellie was training for her defense of title come May 31. Then BOOM (literally), her training was trashed with the accident. Not only did they say no running but they didn’t want her doing anything physical. Must have been harder on her than the injury itself! So, one might now be able to see how a third place finish in a time of 2:47 and change (only about 5 minutes shy of her marathon PB) was a big result for her. Competition at Comrades is pretty fierce. There is no saying she was going to prevail with or without the accident getting in the way, but for those of us who know her amazing spirit and physical abilities, her day on the roads of Vancouver was ever so encouraging. Go Ellie!

How can all of this have anything to do with “NEW”, as the title suggests? Well, we are getting to that part right now.

My family has been on me a bit to knock it off with the marathons. At the very least, maybe not run quite so many. There is some sense to that. Having just entered my eighth decade, the strain of a lot of hard running is making itself felt. Oh, I’m not about to fall over and I CAN still do a full marathon training program, but if it ever was, it is not so easy these days. When you come right down to it, if you are competitive of spirit, you will always train to your potential (ie hard) and the finish times are just relative if they are the best you can do at the time. I am a little bit tempted to let marathons go, having run 25 and my last one having been fun and pretty satisfying as far as performance goes. I do not want my last one to be an awful experience, so running another one creates that risk. It is also highly probable that if the right opportunity comes along, I WILL run another one or two in the right place or time.

The solution has been to concentrate more on half marathons. My personal health situation has pushed in that direction for this year anyway. Not sure ‘health’ is the right term. I wrote a few weeks back about having cataract surgery and my new bionic eye! Like Ellie, though far less traumatically, that cost me three weeks of exercise at a critical moment in my Spring training schedule, meaning that even Vancouver was a bit too soon re my preparations to race. The difference in my vision has been worth every bit of it, though. Now, I face a similar situation as surgery looms on the other eye. The good news is that the date got moved up a couple of weeks, so my Fall racing is going to be far less impacted. Hey, and I’ll be able to easily read my pace on my Garmin!

Marathon Maniac

Marathon Maniac

Now for the story on the half marathon. Because I seem to need goals, I decided that if I really wanted to change my focus to the half marathon, I should find a personal challenge. As many will know, I am a Marathon Maniac. I recently joined the Half Fanatics, which has similar goals and standards (but for half marathons), all of which are strictly about fun. BUT, people have long talked about being “Double Agents”, having a foot in each camp. The powers that be among the Maniacs and Fanatics decided to make that official and have now created an official Double Agent set of standards and levels. How could I resist? I am now DA#1261 and moving along on my quest to ‘climb mountains’ as the levels are designated by names of famous Mountains.

So, I am already a two star or Silver level Maniac, but partly because I have concentrated so much on marathons over the last year, I haven’t had the kind of string in the Half Fanatics system to be anything more than base level. (No, they won’t let you count marathons as being a half or more.) What to do? Well, chase down some Planets of course (HF levels are done as planets)!

The Vancouver Half Marathon was the first of four I intend to run in 14 days. I’m not sure that is exactly what the family had in mind, but it does involve/matter HOW you run. Let’s face it, if I was training for a marathon I might well run 27K, 30K, 33K for three weeks in a row. Of course they would be LSD pace. Fanatics only care that you start and finish, nobody ever asks ‘how fast?’. So, it works – for me anyway.

Hayward Field - The Finish is Nigh

Hayward Field – The Finish is Nigh

I do have one race in there that is a favourite and falls just where I may be able to do something decent re time and placement. That is the one coming up this Sunday (May 10). It is the Eugene Marathon (half). Love that event. I’ve done the marathon three times and back when I was a mere lad of 65 it gave me my recent marathon PB and a shocking 3rd Place in my group (out of a field of 16, no less). Age graded, that one came out as my second best ever! I’ve never run the Eugene Half, so on this my fourth time back to Eugene I will be giving it a go. I know the route well. Up to something around 10 miles the half and full use the exact same course. After crossing the Willamette River for the first time, the marathoners will go right and us half marathoners will go left with less than three miles back to the fabled track of Hayward Field. Gives me goose-bumps every time I run the straightaway to the finish.  I sure hope this isn’t going to jinx it, but Eugene is my target race.

Eugene Marathon - 2010 - Passing Hayward Field.

Eugene Marathon – 2010 – Passing Hayward Field.

Eugene should be a lot of fun. For reasons I don’t actually know, some 25 runners from the Forerunners Clinic group I run with, have decided they will do the half or full in Eugene. I know a few, like me, are shooting for a good time, maybe some BQ efforts even. (It is that kind of course.) There are definitely some PB aspirations.

Moving on, I was just surfing about the Half Fanatic race schedule for potential races when I fell upon the Sage Rat events in Prosser, WA on May 16-17. By the way, if you are ever searching for a Half to run, you can go to the HF web page and view the Race Schedule. It is public. You will find races from one end of the US to the other and most major Canadian races too. If an event is listed, there will be a link to the race site. Same is true for marathons over on the Maniac web site.

The whole Sage Rat thing just grabbed my imagination. Prosser is not a ridiculous distance from here and the event looked like great fun. Saturday there is the Sage Rat Half Marathon. That one is a pretty standard ‘road race’ and there are some shorter alternate distance races too. On Sunday there is the Dirty Rat 25K ‘trail’ event. Might be some trails, but it seems more like back roads and a gnarly 1,000ft elevation gain/loss on an out and back. Talk about medals! You get one for each race, then one for doing the combo. Do well, and you might even get some age group recognition. I have a pretty good chance of being first out of ONE in both races. The Fanatics count actual half marathons and anything longer than a half, as long as it is shorter than a marathon. So, this will be my first ‘back to back’. Naturally, both the Sage Rat and Dirty Rat are going to be all about the fun and I hope to find folks of similar pace to run with and chat. Being the third and fourth ‘half marathons’ in 14-15 days AND back to back, I definitely won’t be pushing too hard.

All going well and by the time this is all said and run, I should have climbed to the Fourth Level of Half Fanatic (Jupiter). I’m sure that will also do something for my Double Agent status, but that will be what it will be and I’m not just sure how you combine a two star Maniac status with a four planet Fanatic status to get the corresponding Double Agent status (maybe Mont Blanc?), but we’ll see! Some might figure I should be called “IDIOT” (vs Fanatic) but you must know I’m not alone! There are over 11,000 members in each of the MM and HF groups. We DA’s are special though, with numbers only around 1500 at the moment. That said the group is only a week old, and now that it exists there may be interest in getting qualified as either HF or MM in order to be a Double Agent.

First things first, I am pretty excited about visiting Eugene again. For me, it is ‘one of those races’ that is special. It will not be lost on me as we turn for home after crossing the Willamette River, we will be paralleling and very near “Pre’s Trail” and when we hit the track of Hayward Field, we WILL be “Running in the Footsteps of Legends”!

BMO Vancouver Marathon (and this Blogger) Ready to GO!

05.02.2015

BMO Van Mar Logo0001Well, I registered a long time ago. I went to the media luncheon and met the elites in all events and then I picked up my race package (half marathon for me this year). I laid out my race kit. My shoes and everything else match like seldom before!

THERE IS NOTHING LEFT TO DO BUT RUN!!

Well, OK, guess I have to wait until they fire the starting gun, horn, whistle (?). And, I might have to wander around and look for some running friends. Of course I will have to search out Team Joshua the subject of my last blog post. Then, there will be nothing left to do but run.

The weather is looking pretty ideal, especially for the half marathon and probably for elite marathoners. It might get warmish (certainly not hot) for marathoners taking a bit longer to go the distance. Don’t forget your sunscreen!

I ran the Half in 2012 (first year of the new courses) and the Full Marathon in 2014. While I am local and know the routes quite well, you don’t REALLY know them unless you run them. So, I can say I do know both the Half Marathon and Marathon courses. “Like” is another thing. I might go so far as to say I Love the Half Marathon route, at least the territory you pass through. The Marathon covers some of the same ground in the second half and has some of its own amazing features too. That said, if you are reading this and looking for clues, the marathon route is not the easiest you will ever do. My best advice is study the course and pay close attention to the elevation profile and where in the race the challenges come. I think Respect is the best advice I can give. Show it respect and you should do OK, maybe even well.

Cambie Street - March 2012

Cambie Street – March 2012

When it comes to the Half, there are fewer challenges, but one of the big temptations will be to run down Cambie Street like you were after a 5K PB. Don’t do that. Oh, it will be fun, at first. It may come back to haunt you a bit later in the race! Moderation may be the big word for the Half. With the weather expected, you will be treated to an amazing view of the downtown and the North Shore mountains all the way down to the bridge. It could truly be spectacular, especially if you are a visitor or even a first time in this event. Then you will be treated to a corner of Vancouver’s China Town and a romp through the ‘new-old’ Yaletown area until the route puts along the English Bay shore prior to entering the City’s jewel, Stanley Park. Marathoners actually go all the way around on the Seawall. Half Marathoners stay on the road and cut over into the middle of the park, running through to the other side, where a very hard right turn (think switch-back) will be the beginning of the end. Don’t get too excited. There is still a way to, but you are definitely into the last phases. You are more or less running East at this point to Brockton Point, then turning to

Harry Jerome - Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC

Harry Jerome – Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC

the right past the “Nine O’clock Gun” and my old friend, Harry Jerome. If you are needing some inspiration at that point (you very well might), he’s your man (or statue). For Half Marathoners (still on the road), look left, marathoners (on the Seawall path) look right. It will be right about here that you need to start considering how you will finish. No, you aren’t there yet, but it won’t be a lot more than 2K from this point.

The two routes come together just near the Vancouver Rowing Club and everybody is on the Seawall. Of course, because of the big stagger in the starts of the two events, there won’t be many half marathoners out there when the elite marathoners come through. That should be around 10:30am, give or take. So, half marathoners will be three and a half hours into their race at that point. The final or home stretch is along Georgia and up (a little) Pender to the Finish Line. You should be able to see it once you veer onto Pender. Get ready to celebrate, because the work will be almost over and the fun getting ready to start!

Here is to a wonderful race day for everyone from the 8K to the Half Marathon to the Full. And remember, stay safe – have fun! Should be lots of spectators on such a great day! Smile (when you can) and don’t forget to thank a volunteer!  Maybe a bunch of volunteers! Without them, we wouldn’t be doing this.

Finally, if you happen to spot/recognize this old buzzard out there, say hi!

TEAM JOSHUA ROLLS AGAIN AT BMO VANCOUVER, AND OTHER BIG NEWS

04.30.2015

IMG_3662

If his was a new story it might be easier to write in a way, but it is an amazing story so I guess I am going to to go with that. The simplest part of this story today is that Team Joshua will be running the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon on Sunday May, 3. I am also running the Half so will be catching up with Team Joshua on Sunday morning at the start. This is the fifth time Team Joshua will compete at the BMO Vancouver Marathon events, beginning with the full marathon in 2009, followed by four half marathons including the one coming up on Sunday.

The Vancouver running community is,  or certainly should be, aware of Team Joshua. That would be Michelle Gentis and her young(ish) and now not so very little son, Joshua. Josh is now 14 years of age and a lot bigger than the first time I met him back in 2012 or when they started in 2008. I know some members of our community are aware as we have collectively supported Team Joshua along their journey. There was a RITZ Blog piece a while back that included a segment about a fund-raising event that helped realize a custom racing chair for Josh. This is one of the things I love about the running community – so much support and understanding for everyone who wants to be a part of it. But, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.

I should also say I am not the only one to have written about or covered the story of Team Joshua. Check this Impact story written by Jean Sorenson, another Vancouver runner/writer. For that matter, Team Joshua has a web site that you can find pretty easily, especially if you just click the link included right here. Among other things, you will find a number of media links that tell various parts of this moving story. Still, the story evolves and there is always more to be said and to be inspired by.

Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon - 2008

Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon – 2008

Not that it would make much difference if it had a name, but Josh has an undiagnosed brain disorder. He is effectively immobile without aid and unable to speak. This is not a new story in that Michelle and Josh began running in 2008 at the Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon. As the story has gone, one thing has led to another because this is one big thing that gives Josh such obvious pleasure and Michelle both satisfaction and her own pleasure in being able to give Josh something so simple and good. In Michelle’s own words, when they finished Scotiabank in 2008, “he was squealing with delight”!

Image - Version 4

Team Joshua racing to a Boston Qualifier Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (2013)

Back there a while, Michelle decided that being a pretty darn good runner, she would try to qualify them for Boston. Not many are unaware of Team Hoyt (Dick and son Rick). They were the inspiration for Team Joshua’s dream to qualify for and run the Boston Marathon. Although Team Joshua has had a lot of supporters along the way she has a special spot for Jerry Ziak of Forerunners. Jerry provided the coaching support that got Team Joshua to that all important BQ time.

Even though the qualifying time was done at The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, while pushing Josh’s racing chair, it turned out that NO competitor under the age of 18 is allowed in the Boston Marathon. I personally understand why no runner under 18 can run, but the runner is clearly well over the age of 18! Apparently, there is still some small amount of conversation that continues on the subject, but for now this seems to be kind of a settled matter. And just in case you are wondering, there is no ‘special BQ’ if you are pushing a chair, racing or otherwise. BQ is a BQ – period. With good reason, Michelle worries that physics will make it pretty hard to BQ as Josh gets older and heavier and reaches the magic age of 18. I understand that Michelle’s racing weight is about 120lb. The ratio of she to he will soon be the opposite of what it was when Team Joshua began. Don’t care how good those bearings are, she will be pushing a weight WHILE trying to run a BQ.

Well, it seems that is what the Boston Athletics Association thinks – no entry for Team Joshua right now. I would offer them some unsolicited advice though: Save yourself some time and trouble on this and just give them the entry they earned. You’ll be glad you did. You may or may not have realized that as kind and lovely as Michelle may seem on the outside, inside you are dealing with the spirit of a Mama Grizzly Bear!

How do I know this? Well, Michelle already has a plan to put Boston at the back end of a rather impressive list of six fairly well known marathons: Chicago, New York City, Berlin, London, Tokyo and finally Boston. That’s right folks! Team Joshua is taking on the Marathon Majors, starting with Chicago. So tell me, when Team Joshua has completed five of six of the Majors, what are the good folks at BAA going to say then?

And HOW do I know this Marathon Majors project is going to go so terrifically? Well that is the “Big News” of the title. Just this week it was confirmed that the Bank of America Chicago Marathon has accepted Team Joshua for this year’s race. That didn’t happen without some effort either, but the Race Director, Carey Pinkowski, worked with his race team to review the earlier policy of NO WHEEL CHAIRS and will institute a trial program for this year including Team Joshua and five others. None of this is going to be inexpensive, so when Aon (Chicago) stepped up to sponsor the efforts of Team Joshua, things came together in a big way!

When writing about stuff like this, or any personal running story it is hard to know where to go, what to say, and for that matter what not to say.

Happy BQ Team

Happy BQ Team

Come Sunday, I hope that lots of runners will recognize Team Joshua, say ‘hi’ and maybe run along for a bit. I was thinking I might just run with them myself, but then I realized they would have to slow down so I can keep up! I am sure, from what Michelle tells me, that Josh is going to have a wonderful time out there and will once again love crossing the finish line and getting his finisher’s medal. Any of us who are around at the time will surely celebrate with Josh and Michelle. And then, we will go home. Team Joshua will go home too. The difference is that, as much fun as Sunday will be, Josh will still be, in Michelle’s words, “profoundly disabled”. They will go on with the rest of life, a life that has so many more challenges than having a racing chair that enables Michelle to move them quickly from start to finish.

When I personally met Josh, he was about ten. Now he is fourteen and moving into higher levels of learning. He is having difficulty with his school situation and it is apparently clear that it saddens him. Acceptance at age 14 is everything. Someone with the challenges Josh faces winds up in a category of his own. Part of what drives Michelle is this broader situation that faces Josh and all people with disabilities. While there is no doubt her cause is personal, she also wants to use it as a form of advocacy. She has told me that another inspiration is the Power to Push project of Shaun Evans (ultra runner) and his son Shamus (cerebral palsy) and their cross country run this summer to raise awareness.

Why shouldn’t people like Josh and Shamus have the pleasure of physical and other achievements? Maybe Josh doesn’t communicate like the rest of us, but I’ve seen him and trust me, Josh CAN communicate how he is feeling. Maybe he doesn’t actually run these races but his joy in participating is just as great, maybe more, as compared to the able bodied. Why shouldn’t he be able to feel this joy? Happily, and some of the time, running is just what the doctor ordered! But, it is more. It is symbolic of acceptance in life as a whole. Why just running? Why not everything in general? Oh, there is no doubt it might look different on the surface, but being fully involved is what counts.

Acceptance. That is what it is about. Acceptance. That is all Team Joshua is seeking.

IS IT BMO VANCOUVER MARATHON TIME AGAIN?

04.28.2015
Runners Running 2013

Runners Running 2013

Well, you know I wouldn’t have asked the question if it wasn’t!

Actually, it technically isn’t for me. I am running the Half Marathon this time. Some may have noted that I got me a ‘bionic’ eye a while back and that procedure knocked a good three weeks out of my critical training time. Too much for preparing for the full marathon and I’m not interested in one more less than stellar (everything is relative – stellar for me) marathon result. Timing was even a bit short for the Half but OK.

I am really looking forward to getting to the start with those thousands of other eager participants. Some will be there to make a statement. Most of them will be lined up right at the front. However, there will be a good number of first timers, I’m sure, and they too will be making a statement of their own, regardless of what their times may be or whether it is the Half or the Full Marathon. First is always First and it is always special. By the way, there is still time to register!

As usual, there will be a fine crew of elite runners and I’ll be off to get a first-hand look at them come Friday. May be more on that later.

Even if I’m not running the full marathon, it doesn’t mean I’m not excited about it. No, sir! In fact, it is not certain that I will EVER run another marathon, but that doesn’t change its place in my heart. There is just something about the distance and the challenge it represents. And, while any marathon is special, Vancouver was my first and I’ve done it five times on three different courses. As a result, it has an extra special, special place in my heart.

Just got  me into something new this week. Some will know that I have been a Marathon Maniac for a couple of years now. I recently, really recently, became a Half Fanatic as well. Let me rephrase that. I have had the qualifications for a while, but I just recently joined the group.  Is that just too much crazy running obsessiveness for you? No? Well then you will be pleased to hear that for those nuts enough to run enough half and full marathons to qualify for both, you can now be a Double Agent! People have talked about it for some while, but it is now OFFICIAL! The Vancouver Half Marathon will actually be the first of a series of half marathons that will spruce up both my Half Fanatic AND Double Agent status!! And, just in case anyone is curious about all this, the criteria for certification are totally based on quantity. Oh, there are Maniacs and Fanatics who are mighty fine runners, but to get into either group all you need to do is finish the prescribed number of events over a range of time (days, weeks, months, etc). There are now over 11,000 members in each group.

OK, so back to the BMO Vancouver Marathon. A big advantage of running the Half is that no matter how fast those elite marathoners are, I am going to be at the finish before they are and I will get to see them finishing. With the newish finish, should there be a foot-race to the line, it will be possible to see it happening. When the finish was up Pender, onto Burrard and then back along Hastings, there was only about 1-200m between first appearance of the lead runner and the actual finish.

To be honest, this is a bit of an ‘advance notice’. There is an exciting post coming later in the week and I’m hoping a few of you will watch for it. Most importantly, it isn’t about me, and may not even be BY me!

Stay tuned. I think you will be glad you did.

WILL POWER CAN MAKE THINGS HAPPEN – WALLY HILD

04.09.2015

EDITOR’S NOTE: Our friend and Running in the Zone (book) contributor, passed from this world a few days ago. Knowing him was an honour and privilege and an inspiration when you know his story. I could think of no better way to celebrate Wally’s life than to reproduce his RITZ contribution here on the blog. We will miss you Wally.

Wally Hild

Wally Hild

In February of 1994, I was told I was dying of Hodgkin’s disease, a lymphatic cancer. Oncologist Dr. Jack Chritchley explained the four stages of the disease and said I was at 3-B, almost at the final stage, which was 4 and would be terminal without treatment.  Many of my internal organs were compromised by cancer including my spleen and lymph nodes. I’d lost over 20 pounds, my weight dropping from 162 to 140. I had two baseball-sized tumors in my chest, one behind each lung. It hurt to breathe.  Dr. Chritchley told me, without treatment, I had less than one year to live.

After a month of invasive tests and procedures, he sentenced me to eight months of harsh and very ‘aggressive’ chemotherapy. Aggressive means you throw up a lot and lose all of your hair. As well, Dr. Chritchley told me there were no guarantees that the treatment would be successful. I had to put all my trust into my faith, my family and friends as well as him, to help get me through the difficult and black days that were in front of me.

Looking back in retrospect, it is interesting, even fateful, how different parts of a life fit together like two jigsaw pieces. It was during my chemo protocol that my wife Caroline and I ended up watching our very first Ironman Canada triathlon, which is held in Penticton each August. We had moved to the Okanagan from southern Alberta the previous autumn. The valley is Canada’s version of Napa Valley in California where many different kinds of fruits and grapes grow abundantly.

Six months into my chemotherapy I could barely walk for more than 10 minutes without having to stop and rest. I was totally bald and because sunshine is dangerous to chemo patients, and with the daytime temperatures rising as high as 40 Celsius, staying covered was a formidable task for me. In my tattered straw hat, long-sleeved cotton shirt and loose fitting jeans, I looked like someone who had his seasons confused.

As I stood there there on the beach in Penticton at 7 a.m. I could not believe what I was seeing as almost two thousand triathletes from many countries around the globe hit the water for the 2.4 mile swim. It was like a divine inspiration that came over me, but my eyes teared up as I turned to Caroline and in a choking voice said, “I’m going to do this someday.” I so desperately wanted to live and I felt that wrapping an anchor chain around something like Ironman might help.  By blurting out that seemingly irrational statement, I’d given myself authority to take my healing into my own hands.

Through my faith, the support and encouragement of my family and friends and the expertise of Dr. Chritchley and the team of cancer professionals, I survived the treatments, which can be as harsh as the cancer itself. I thought of Friedrich Neitzsche’s observation: “that which does not kill me, makes me stronger.”

In September of 1995 I decided to train for the 1996 Ironman Canada Triathlon.  Caroline and I met with Dave Bullock, a director of the race and a previous two-time finisher. For three hours we interrogated him about what it takes to finish such an arduous event. I came away from the meeting with a new enthusiasm for taking on the challenge.

I met with Dr. Chritchley a few days later to undergo a rigorous cardio-pulmonary function stress examination to determine if the chemotherapy had caused any irreparable damage to my internal organs, especially my heart and lungs. It was not a routine test but because I had met with him for his input into my desire to do the race, he ordered the evaluation. I asked him if I was crazy to attempt it. With the usual twinkle in his eye, he said, “You’ve come through an Ironman-type medical procedure.  Go for it.”  He told me the examination showed no damage from the chemotherapy and I was thrilled when he gave me “thumbs up” after the test.

On August 25, 1996, just after 11:30 p.m., I crossed the finish line to achieve the greatest goal of my life. I’d blown out my right knee during the bike portion and had to walk the marathon leg of the triathlon. I was on the course for 16 hours, 34 minutes and 17 seconds.  With tears of joy, I collapsed into the arms of my wife Caroline, daughter Jodi and son Chris as I passed beyond the tape. We’d all experienced something that would profoundly change the way we looked at life.

I knew from that day that I would be physically active for the rest of my life. Buoyed by the Ironman finish, I kept a modicum of fitness by occasionally running 10K races and became more interested in training for a marathon. I’d read books by Joe Henderson and Jeff Galloway, which helped in my decision to train for the 26.2 mile odyssey.

But as they say, the best laid plans of… well you know the rest of the story. I started the Okanagan Marathon in Kelowna in October 1999 but after 14 miles, I had to drop out of the race.  Eight months earlier, while playing in a no-contact old-timers hockey tournament where there was to be no body-checking, a Neanderthal on the other team who obviously hadn’t read the no body checking rules (or couldn’t read) nailed me with an NHL-style hip check.  He sent me flying through the air.  I crash-landed on my right knee, damaging the meniscus.  It was the same one injured during Ironman.

The incident forced me to evaluate the sports love of my life. I’d been playing hockey before Wayne Gretzky was born, but the orthopedic surgeon who examined my knee and performed the arthroscopic repair told me bluntly, “Hockey and marathon training have nothing in common. You’ll have to choose which one you want to do. It’s one or the other – unless you like lying here with me poking holes in your knee.”

Late that Fall I made the tough decision to prepare for the 2000 Peach City Marathon the following May. It was difficult and I regretfully hung up my skates for a season. I apologized to them each time I passed them in the basement room where I stored all my athletic equipment. I lovingly fondled my hockey stick whenever my wife wasn’t looking.

But, my decision had been made.  I garnered as much information from books and friends who were much better runners than I and began my winter training. The  second item I bought after a new pair of runners was a heart rate monitor. I was to run at no faster than 130 beats per minute, which was 70 percent of my maximum heart rate.

With my mind overflowing with information and inspiration, my watch on my left wrist and heart monitor receiver on my right, I set out on my 24 week regimen. I’d never used a monitor before and was shocked at how slowly I had to run to stay in my target zone.

I can walk faster than this I thought to myself. But I persisted and was on my way to running five days a week with one swimming session thrown in for good measure. My goal was to finish the marathon in 4:45.

Penticton is known for mild winters, but below freezing temperatures and some snow are assured even though the season is not nearly as severe or lengthy as that experienced in most Canadian provinces and northern US States. As it got colder through December and January, one of Dr. Chritchley’s prophesies came true. He’d told me that because chemotherapy is accumulative and does not dissipate as a prescribed medicine might over time, I had suffered permanent side-effects from the drugs in my fingertips and toes. I could no longer tolerate the cold as I once was able to growing up in the prairies of Alberta where the mercury could plummet to -40 degrees. The nerve endings and capillaries in all 20 digits were in danger of freezing quickly. It was dangerous for me to be in cold weather without adequate apparel.

I asked Dr. Chritchley if he could give me a prescription to live in Hawaii or southern California, which to my surprise he said he could do. However, a follow-up phone call to the American Consulate in Vancouver soon dashed any hopes of a move to where palm trees blow and the only ice you find is in the freezer.

On some of the colder days, I had to wear two pair of gloves and heavy wool socks in my runners. When it was just too miserable, I ran indoors at the city’s community center, which I disliked. Running on a treadmill is clinical and I sweated profusely. Without the wind, I was drenched within twenty minutes.

In early January, I woke up one morning with flu-like symptoms.  I coughed and dragged my butt for a few days but continued to run in spite of my discomfort. I increased my intake of vitamins and Echinacea to help boost my immune system and carried on.

The rest of January passed relatively smoothly and before I knew it, February was nearing a close. In spite of the inclement weather, I was able to run mostly outdoors. The valley where I live is situated north-south so I often ran face-first into wet snow. My cough lingered and my lungs were sore as I sucked in the cold air. In the shower, I cried out in pain as my frozen fingers and toes thawed under the stinging hot water, which felt like millions of tiny needles were being rifled into my digits. On such days, I thought back to my cancer battle and remember how I vowed to never quit believing I could win it.  So it was with my marathon training.  I promised to let nothing stand in my way and just grimaced as another toe thawed out.

As winter gave way to spring, I was able to discard some of the layers of clothing making me finally look like more like a runner than a displaced Eskimo high on the fumes of old, unwashed hockey jerseys. Once the temperatures hit into the 20’s, I finally changed into stripped down to shorts and just a single T-shirt.

Slowly I began to see the positive results of training with the heart rate monitor. After three months, I was going nearly a quarter-mile farther in a 50 minute run at the same pulse rate. It was still too slow for me, but I pressed on.

Although four business trips to Vancouver and Victoria put me several long runs behind schedule, I was able to stick to most of my running program. I took my gear with me on each trip and was able to at least do the shorter 8 to 12 mile runs called for by my program.

By the time the cherry, apricot and apple blossoms had burst into full bloom in early May, I had shaken off the cold and was feeling great. My runs between the orchards and vineyards were exhilarating as I drank in the fragrance from the white and pink petals lining the road. Bathed in glorious sunshine, I ran along the east side of the mountain, a thousand feet above the city, the valley spread out below me.

Three weeks before the marathon, I received an interesting proposal from the sales manager at the radio station where I worked. “Do you think you could do an on-location broadcast while you’re running? Peach City Runners would like you to do a play-by-play as you’re doing the race. It’s never been done on radio before. We’ll give you a hands-free cell phone with a special microphone and earpiece.”

“It’s a cool idea”, I said, not really thinking about the ramifications and agreed to do it.  My stomach began to tighten because there was no turning back from the decision I’d made. I had to shake the thought out of my head that I may have bitten off more than I could chew.  The days quickly passed and before I knew it, it was Sunday May 21st, race day.  On the Friday before, I’d awakened with a sore throat and by Saturday morning it had morphed into a head cold.

On Sunday morning my nose was running faster than I could at the best of times. My head was swimming and the floor seemed to undulate under my shaky legs. I knew, however, I could not drop out at the last moment. I sucked back another glass of orange juice, ate a bowl of porridge, popped a couple of Echinacea capsules and just after 6 a.m., headed out of the door with my wife Caroline.

It was slightly overcast and 15 degrees (59F). Caroline kissed me goodbye and at 7 o’clock, the gun went off, signaling the start of the race. I was near the end of the pack and it was a good thing.

With my dripping nose and gritted teeth, my goal was to get from aid station to aid station, situated two miles apart. Caroline had agreed to bring the cell phone to me by car just before 8:30 when the radio broadcast was to begin. The remote broadcast was to end at noon, and I was hoping to be at the finish line by then. I was to do four cut-ins per hour.  When the phone rang, I stopped running and walked while I reported on the race.

As the miles slowly melted away under my red and white runners, the phone progressively got heavier. My breathing became more laboured as I spoke. But, I kept up my excitement about Peach City Runners to give them the best I could under the circumstances. Of the thousand or so remote broadcasts I’d done over a 32-year career in radio and TV, I’d never before done one where I was panting and breathing hard – until that date.  At about mile 18, I began to struggle and happened upon a runner who appeared to be hurt. He told me his name was Ed, and that he lived in Vancouver.  We shook hands and agreed to help each other finish the race, especially when it came to the hilly portion of this particular marathon. By 11 a.m. The sun was directly over us and the famous Okanagan heat began to take it’s toll. I increased my intake of Gatorade and water. My thighs and shins were burning as we walked and jogged north, toward the finish line where the Voice of Ironman, Steve King, was welcoming the tired and spent finishers.

At 11:30, Ed and I were still three miles away from the tape and I knew I would not make the noon finish. I did my last radio cut-in at 11:50 with the beach in sight. On the air, I thanked Steve Brown, the owner of Peach City Runners for the opportunity to do the remote but signed off with, “please don’t ask me to do this again.”

Ed and I hobbled through our collective pain and crossed the finish line together with a time of 5:17. Caroline held me up as I received my Finishers Medal and jacket. I hugged Ed and thanked him for his support and motivation.

As I lay on the foam table, getting my sun-burned and aching legs massaged, I squeezed Caroline’s hand and smiled weakly at her. I had achieved another goal; conquered another challenge. There would likely be another marathon sometime in the future, but I knew that afternoon, I could enjoy what I had accomplished.  I was so very grateful that I was alive to enjoy the aches and pains of stepping outside my comfort zone.

My life has never been the same since my cancer experience. I’ve taken on challenges that in the past, might have seemed insurmountable. There are no mountains in my life anymore. I now have the desire, confidence and fortitude to achieve anything that I want.  My wife will attest to that.

When I come home excited with the idea of something I want to do, she now simply rolls her eyes upward, and with a forced smile, says, OK, go for it.

The only thing stopping me from achieving my goals is me.  And believe me, I’m getting out of my way!