WHAT? IT’S 2015? ALREADY!?

01.04.2015
Dawning of a New Year!

Dawning of a New Year!

Gosh, I was kind of enjoying a quiet time there (as were my loyal readers, likely). But, here it is a brand spanking new year! Well, it is actually just a wee bit used. It is the 4th of January and I’ve already had a 16K run at the Forerunners “First Half” training clinic. (No, I’m not running the First Half Half Marathon, but I am leading a pace group of people who are. I will be back as MC for the big event and looking forward to it, but more on that at a later time.)

So yes, this post is pretty much about me, but maybe there will be some useful thoughts for others to ponder in relation to their own running and racing and the plans related thereto.

I will have a new age category in just a couple of days. It is nice that my birthday is in early January, as my whole year is always at the same age, which only matters when you change categories, but this is one of those years. Crazy as it may seem, what with a new age group and a chance for setting new (personal) age group PBs all over the place, I do not have even ONE race lined up as yet. I guess I should find one quick, just so I can say I was still racing when I was 70. One I might have done is the Steveston Ice Breaker, but I will be out of town meeting our newest grandkid (who hasn’t even been born yet, but soon, very soon). Still, there must be something doing that I can get into and get the year started, as far as racing goes.

I do have some ideas for a big project, which I alluded to in an earlier post, but think I shall keep my big mouth shut on that until I’m really ready to ‘pull the trigger’.

Near Mile 3, Encouragement from KV Switzer (261) Herself.

Near Mile 3, Encouragement from KV Switzer (261) Herself.

2014 turned out to be a good and fun year of running. I ran at least one more marathon than I intended, but the ‘extra’ one was the Yakima River Canyon Marathon and with all the folk in attendance, I wouldn’t have missed that for the world. Somewhere along the way it was supposed to be the ‘Year of the Half’, so I did manage four of those. When all was said and run, I realized I had not done even one 10K, the base to which many (most?) of us refer with regard to our running prowess. Guess that will have to be fixed in 2015. Yakima was a slow marathon for me, but then I promised myself it was ‘a training run’ for the BMO Vancouver Marathon, which was my primary target race early in the year. Don’t know what happened with that one, but it wound up being a couple of minutes slower than Yakima. If I’d known that was going to happen, I would have pushed it harder at Yakima! Fortunately, there was the Revel Big Cottonwood Marathon in September where everything got sorted in my personal world of marathons, with a time that was a recent PB (last three years or so) and it being my 25th marathon. Now, I have to decide if it will be my last marathon (finish on a high note, ya’ know). But, that brings us back to the big project mentioned earlier, so we’ll have to see.

Not that there is some kind of ‘cliff’ associated with my upcoming birthday, but I think it is time to adjust my thinking on running and racing. I’ve noticed for some time that training for and racing the shorter distances makes me more prone to injury than the longer ones, but the longer ones tend to be getting harder to do in terms of training (total effort, and tiring/straining my aging body) even if I seem to suffer less from traumatic and injurious events. I ran 10 races in 2014, but seven of them were half marathon or more. My total racing distance was 238km with a total distance run in training and racing of just over 1500km. Perhaps there is a happy medium to be found. Still, it is rather unwise to race without effective training. That WILL lead to injury.

Morning Beach Scene - Negril, JA

Morning Beach Scene – Negril, JA

I have to admit that some of the best running I did all year was in the week after the Reggae (Half) Marathon in Negril in early December. Why? Because I just didn’t care about anything other than getting out and enjoying the easy run along the beach. Longest of those runs was 5K and I think the shortest was maybe 3K. The point is that the only focus was the doing of it. And, it was so easy. Get up, put on shoes, shorts and singlet, step out door, run. It was early enough that I didn’t even need sunglasses or a hat. A few times I didn’t bother with the shoes and if I weren’t worried about frightening the ‘natives’ with my beluga-like white body (I don’t tan well), I didn’t really need the singlet either. So, technically it could have been as simple as “Get up, put on shorts, step out door, run”. In winter, in Canada – even in Vancouver, it isn’t going to ever be that simple. And, when I’m home I always seem to have a goal to my running. As a result I always seem to have a distance or pace goal to achieve, depending on whether I am doing a LSD run on the weekend or a speed, tempo or hill session during the week.

The thing is, I still like racing. I like the focus that target races give. I love the vibe of races, especially marathons. Maybe what I should do is think about a handful of Spring events and likewise a small number of Fall events and just let the Summer be a time for that easy goal-free running that was so great in Jamaica. I suppose that while my looming birthday is something I will welcome as a special milestone or badge of honour, the number attached is such that without being morbid about it, there is not much doubt that there is some kind of approaching limit to what I am going to be able to do. I mean, good grief, I have some pretty awesome examples of running friends who are going strong and are much older than me. That said, a lot of the people I have run with over the years have stopped running and if not running, definitely racing.

I suppose this musing about stuff is a way to get to a sort of New Year resolution about running.  Too bad it doesn’t seem to have worked yet!

Big Cottonwood Marathon Expo

Big Cottonwood Marathon Expo

In a way, I wish I could get my head to where so many of my fellow Marathon Maniacs are – basically that the doing of it is all that really matters. I still don’t seem to be able to comfortably (mental comfort) enter a race just to finish it. Gotta work on that! I really don’t have too much to prove after all these years. Let’s face it, a lot of times now, just showing up is going to get me a podium place in my age group. But really, what glory is there in being 1/1, other than the fact that you are still out there doing it. THAT is a worthy accomplishment, but finishing first when you are the only one to show up, is not really that remarkable. I have a friend who, when he isn’t all that happy with his performance, will say he finished 2nd out of one! I already get the point of that.

I did just have a small revelation that, at least in some instances, it may be my Scottish blood that says if you are going to spend a bunch of money to travel to and do a race, you better do it well. Value for money and all that. I mean you couldn’t go to a destination race ‘just because’, could you? Well, in a sense, I do that with the Reggae Marathon. Regardless of which of the three events I run, I am under no illusion that my time is going to be in any way remarkable. It is just too hot. Perhaps there is hope yet!

One race I want to do soon, maybe in 2015, is with our grandson, Charlie. He will be nine this year, so it is time to be looking for a 3-5K event we could do together. I’ve raced with his Mom (Danielle) and his Dad (Greg),  also with our other daughter (Janna) and her husband (Jason) and with our son (Cam). The new grandkiddly may be too young for some while, although I suppose if push comes to shove (literally) I might be able to do one with him in a stroller. I was thinking that might be with his Mom or Dad pushing, but I suppose there is nothing stopping me from being the push-OR while he is the push-EE. In fact, conceptually, it might be best if I was the one doing the pushing. Guess we’ll let his parents have the final say on that.

That seems to be enough musing and personal chat for today. 2015 is shaping up to be a fun year and I am really looking forward to it.

Happy New Year to one and all, and all the best with your own personal running goals and plans!

See you on the roads!

END OF A YEAR, END OF AN ERA (FOR ME)

12.13.2014
Sunset on 2014 Running

Sunset on 2014 Running

It has been an interesting year, this 2014. That includes both personal and general matters. Seems that with my decision that racing is now over for me until 2015, a bit of a review is in order. I won’t say 2014 didn’t have its ups and downs and I’m not talking about course profiles. All in all though, I have to say it has been an overall great year. I hope others who may read this and are inspired to reflect on their 2014 race and running records will feel as I do. I am already looking forward to 2015, and if you read on, you will see why! I’ll wish all readers a great year in 2015, as it seems a logical conclusion coming out of a post like the one to follow.

Lenore and Bob Dolphin, April 4,2014

Lenore and Bob Dolphin, April 4,2014

To begin with the personal, I did a couple of ‘old friend’ events and several new ones. The first of those races was new to me (Yakima River Canyon Marathon) as was the second (Big Cottonwood Marathon). The other was just plain new (Rock ‘n’ Roll Vancouver Half Marathon), to me and everyone else. The latter event

Roger Robinson and Kathrine Switzer - Q&A Session

Roger Robinson and Kathrine Switzer – Q&A Session

also had a not so new 10K component, but given that the James Cunningham Seawall race was The James Cunningham Seawall race and not the James Cunningham Seawall 10K (because the Stanley Park Seawall isn’t exactly 10K – almost, but not quite), you could argue that technically, even it was new.

Yakima was a great opportunity to meet so many old friends in a celebration of running and the contributions of Team Dolphin, not to mention Bob Dolphin’s personal marathon records. Present were a number of Running in the Zone contributors with an appearance there of Roger Robinson and Kathrine Switzer, feature speakers. Marathon Maniacs abounded and a couple of milestone achievements were timed to happen at the Yakima River Canyon Marathon.

Running Down Big Cottonwood Canyon - My most recent marathon.

‘Flying’ Down Big Cottonwood Canyon

Big Cottonwood was a great race for me personally as I recaptured some feeling of accomplishment with my performance. I love running down big hills, note that of the eight times I’ve run Hood to Coast, something like five of those have been Leg #1. Big Cottonwood is like Leg 1, but is most of a full marathon (around 20 miles) of “Leg 1″! I came away happy with what I had done and fairly certain I could have done better had my original travel plan not got a bit altered due to an acting opportunity. I went from an easy driving trip covering a total of 9 days, to a hectic flight leaving Vancouver Friday morning and arriving about 4:00pm in Salt Lake City with just time to pick up the race package and get to the 7am start, then back home Sunday afternoon. The travel was not a huge deal, but I had no time to adjust to the altitude and no time to drive the course and really see that the ‘flat’ part coming just after 15 miles wasn’t, flat that is. Net zero elevation, because you start that segment and finish it in the same place. Whatever, I was very pleased and really thought the race was a good one.

BMO Vancouver Marathon - Start 2013

BMO Vancouver Marathon – Start 2013

The first ‘old faithful’ event in 2014 was the BMO Vancouver Marathon, and it too was sort of new. It was the fifth time I have run the Vancouver full marathon (on three different courses), but I had never run the recently set (2012) marathon route. Vancouver was my very first marathon, run in 1988, so we go way back, this race and me. I ran the new half marathon in the inaugural year, but since the two races share very little common ground, that didn’t help much in knowing the marathon course. I do have to admit that the Forerunners training clinic I run with and lead a pace group for, trains on most of the course at some point or other, but in bits and pieces. And, training runs aren’t the same thing anyway.

Three-fer at Victoria 2007 Danielle, Dan & Janna

Three-fer at Victoria 2007 Danielle, Dan & Janna

If there is something more familiar for me in the category of races I call ‘old friends’, than the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon (and half marathon), I’m not sure what it would be. (No, the PRR “First Half” doesn’t count because I’m an organizer/facilitator of that one – never ran it.) Getting back to ‘Victoria’, a lot of the 11 total appearances were at the Royal Victoria Marathon and I sill kind of think of it that way. The Victoria Marathon holds a special place for me as it was my first marathon completed after back surgery, a full ten years after, but still the first. I ran it with some uncertainty and trepidation even if I had trained pretty well. Finishing and doing so decently was a momentous personal achievement and left me with a great love for the event. Well, and yes, ahem, it was where Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes was launched. The other great thing about Victoria is that it is our family race. Most of the times I have done Victoria it has been with one or both daughters running too.

On a very personal level, I need to note that 2014 is the end of a decade in my life. New age group coming up in January when I officially enter my EIGHTH decade! That sounds so much more impressive than just saying I will turn 70 in January. But, I got here and I’m still going. For a bunch of reasons, most of them having zip to do with running, the early part of the year will be short on racing. I’ll be running, just not racing until April or even May. With 10 races in 2014, that may be a good thing and set me up well for later in 2015. I’m tempted to get one in as soon as possible, just so  I can say I did a race when I was 70, but there is nothing making it look like I won’t have a chance to do one a bit later. Speaking of eras, the race that would have been my #1 candidate for first event in the new grouping is the Steveston Icebreaker, but we won’t be in Vancouver. Nope, we expect to be considerably farther east than that, meeting our newest grandchild. I am actively looking for a race to do with our older grandson, who will turn nine in 2015. That should work out OK. Not entirely certain I can hold out for a race with the new grandkiddly. Still, I do have friends running in their late 70s and even 80s, so who knows what may happen. I mean, it doesn’t need to be a marathon! I’ve run with all our kids and both sons-in-law (raced, that is), so time to start working on this new generation.

MC's First Half - Anjulie Latta and Dan Cumming

MC’s First Half – Anjulie Latta and Dan Cumming

There is a bit of minor surgery coming up after I get done with MC duties at the First Half Half Marathon, and I’m told I will be off running for about three weeks, so THAT is what takes things through into at least April before I can think seriously about racing or maybe that is think about racing seriously. I mean, when you are the young guy in a new age division, you better make hay while the sun shines!

Speaking of shining sun, I am just closing out my last couple of days in Jamaica, basking in the glow of the 2014 Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K, another event that has become one of my regulars. I took a few days off after the race, but then started an easy, early morning beach running program that has seen me do an easy 4-5K each morning, just as the sun is starting to rise into the sky. The beach is relatively quiet, except for a few other runners and some random guys who keep offering me ‘smoke’ and ‘herb’. Hope springs eternal, I guess. They don’t seem to see the irony of trying to get a runner to stop and light up. I don’t know much about the properties of ‘herb’, but I’m not sure it could make me feel a lot more relaxed and peaceful than these totally purposeless runs. By no purpose, I mean that I am not training and not racing. I used my Garmin once, just to get an idea of distance because pace is hard to gauge in the sand. Most of the beach is pretty flat and firm, so the running is easy and you just need to let everything sink into your being and enjoy the sound of the waves and the changing light. No purpose, means no real pace, just do what feels good and stop if there is something to look at. I’ve been running with shoes because more than once, I’ve done a bare-foot beach run and had the shifting sand give me a blister on the bottom of my foot. That in turn curtails the morning runs – kind of counter-productive you’d have to say. But, tomorrow is probably the last day for an early run. The next run is going to be barefoot, right near the water’s edge. I can feel it already!

Morning Beach Scene - Negril, JA

Morning Beach Scene – Negril, JA

IF I DON’T WRITE THIS WILL THE REGGAE PARTY CONTINUE?

12.09.2014
Rondel Restaurant - Copy

Chris at Rondel Restaurant for ‘last breakfast’.

Jetola Anderson-Blair models the all new 2014 medals

Jetola Anderson-Blair models the all new 2014 medals

You know, that is kind of how I have felt. But, as I bid farewell to Chris Morales (aka That Runnin’ Guy) yesterday, I knew the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K was indeed over for 2014. Some years back Chris and I found ourselves staying at Rondel Village and have never found a reason to stay elsewhere. FWIW, Rondel just won the 2014 Best Small/Boutique Hotel award and if you want a local resort experience with all the essentials of clean, convenient, nice beach and fabulous staff without the ‘all-inclusive’ frills and vibe, well this is the place.

I am making a vacation of it, so as readers of earlier posts will know, I arrived early and will be staying for a little while yet.

This year’s Reggae Marathon showed that no matter how good an event may be, you can always step it up a notch. New finisher medals, new pasta party organization, new finish venue arrangements and my own personal favourite, five year age categories. Until 2014, they used 10-year categories. Call me shallow, but when you are the oldest (pretty sure I am) in a 10 year category, your hopes of a stellar placing diminishes. My birthday falls exactly one month after race day and at the point, even in a five-year age group, I will move to a new category, M70-74. Yes, I know, hard to believe. I mean I don’t believe it!!!! Five or ten, I’m still likely the oldest guy, but at least I don’t have to deal with those young 60-something whipper-snappers.

"Four Amigos" add to the Reggae Marathon total - now 18 races.

“Four Amigos” add to the Reggae Marathon total – now 18 races.

As some really faithful fans may recall, a bunch of us have created our own event within an event: The Reggae Runners Half Marathon Challenge (2014). This year the group grew to 10 from the original three. Being the guy who loves stats and age-grading, I was the keeper of the official results and ratings. It was interesting how many of us turned out to be in the last year of our 5-year groupings whatever they were. This whole thing and the on-line bantering, OK trash-talking, is part of our particular fun. It turned out, although I really don’t

Deb's a Winna!

Deb’s a Winna!

want to rehash the whole thing here or favour this one or that, one of our number, Deb Thomas won her age group AND was top Female Master in the Half Marathon. Another, and one who has contributed to this blog, Jetola Anderson-Blair won her category in the Full Marathon. One of our number felt a marathon wasn’t quite enough, so Navin Sadarangani decided to create his own 50K challenge by running 8K before the official marathon start and timing his arrival to join the official marathon race when the ‘gun’ went off.

Times (other than the all around ‘good times)’ don’t count so much here. The race is a lot of fun and well organized but you are running in a tropical climate and in that context some really good times are turned in, but they can’t be compared straight up to times a person might do in cooler regions. You are better to judge yourself against your peers in terms  of placement. On that basis, our crowd of enthusiastic runners did themselves proud with a total of 6 “top 10″ age group finishes in our chosen events.

It was so good to see Race Director, Alfred “Frano” Francis, back in the saddle, given that he was in a Kingston Hospital in intensive care this time last year. He gave a Big Up to the race crew who did themselves proud in his absence last year and rightly so. That is no easy task, even though everyone is so good at what they do. I hate to start naming names because I don’t KNOW all the names, but no tribute to the crew can go forth without a special nod to Diane Ellis.

2014 Start Line. Just before it all got going!

2014 Start Line. Just before it all got going!

I’m not going to recount the numbers. At the moment I don’t even know the official stats. Regardless, the 2014 Reggae Marathon was clearly bigger and better than ever before. As far as I know, the race went off without the proverbial hitch. Having been RD for a few events, I know there were likely a good many ‘hitches’ but it is a sign of great organization when only the insiders know!

So, even though I know my vacation is continuing, I guess I have to accept that Reggae Marathon 2014 is truly over. This old runner is glad he made the pilgrimage and so glad to see so many familiar faces once again, not to mention meeting a bunch of new ones.

I guess that just leaves on thing to say. See you all in 2015 for the 15th Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K! Negril, Jamaica – December 5, 2015

 

 

I WOKE UP THIS MORNING – TO THE RISING SUN!

12.05.2014

Negril Sunrise Dec 5

The title is the opening lines of Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds“. It goes on later: “Don’t worry – about a thing. ‘Cause every little thing, gonna’ be alright!” Let me tell you that when you start to see the sky like this one hour after the start of the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K it is hard not to believe that.

Runners start in the dark, to torch light, the sound of Marley music and a collective enthusiasm that is hard to duplicate. As you move away from the start you hear the steel drums and then you know it has begun. At 5:15am, the air is warm for us northern types, but to me it always feels like silk. Getting your run on, you start to find a pace. For the first couple of miles, everyone is headed the same direction, toward Negril Town and the roundabout that will tell the 10K runners they are almost half done already. I am always amazed how fast we seem to get to that roundabout, but I guess the music stations, aid stations and all those non-running supporters standing at the roadside just makes it go by fast. Of course, I personally tend to run the Half Marathon, so the roundabout is still a pleasant sight, but not as momentous as it may be for the 10K folk. Having never actually done the Full Marathon I can only imagine how they feel, maybe “well, that is a nice start”. In any case, as noted at the start the runners have the whole road for a couple of miles until things begin to thin out and until the real speedsters are threatening to head back against the flow. It works great and after that sharing the road is not a problem.

Sweet, Sweet Reggae Music

Sweet, Sweet Reggae Music

Larry and Karen Savitch in Negril - Photo: Chris Morales

Larry and Karen Savitch in Negril – Photo: Chris Morales

Don’t worry! I’m not about to describe the whole race, all three events! What I did want to do was set the scene for the header photograph. However fast or slow or in-between you might be, that (or something like it) is what you are going to see one hour into your race. If you are a fast 10K competitor, you will be standing in the finish area sipping fresh coconut water  from your fresh-cut coconut. Pretty well everyone else is going to be seeing something like this as they run. I am not going to tell a lie, if you happen to be passing a band or sound system playing “One Love” or even the above mentioned “Three Little Birds” you might find yourself welling up a bit. It has happened to me.

Soon enough, the sun is fully up and more and more people hit the finish where the party is definitely starting!  Don’t forget after the refreshing coconut, the equally refreshing Red Stripe! Because the Reggae Marathon is ‘an event’ as much as a race, people kind of do what they do. Some are serious, some aren’t. It doesn’t matter once you hit the finish line and that medal is placed around your neck. From then on it is party time. SEE YOU THERE TOMORROW MORNING!

First though, we have to do that amazing pasta party tonight!  Ya Mon!!

 

NEWS FROM THE ISLAND IN THE SUN

12.04.2014

IMG_2485You knew I was going to have to do this sooner or later! First post from the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K and site of the Reggae Runners Half Marathon Challenge. This is all fun and maybe just a couple of serious reflections on racing and friends. This is the fourth year in a row that I have participated. The race has grown each and year and while it is technically smaller than last year there is still a day of on-site registration. 1600 runners are signed up for the three distances, most for the half marathon and 10K but there are a whole lot of hardy full marathoners too. There is a pretty good chance of surpassing the registration count for last year. Friday is always the big day. Guess we’ll see.

I decided to come down early and enjoy some R and R. I spent a couple of days in Montego Bay with Lawrence Watson at his AirBnB (Castlevue). I met Lawrence in 2011, but never had the time to stop in at his place. This time was different. Great decision on my part. Even went running Saturday morning. And boy did I get treated to some special and authentic Jamaican food. Sunday breakfast was ackee and salt fish with fried breadfruit and callaloo. Then I headed off for Negril.

Nifty new shoes.

Nifty new shoes.

Wanting to fit in, I got into the spirit with new shoes that should do the trick. Almost the flag colours of Jamaica and should go nicely with the new singlet. Once you come here many (and that includes me) say they are 100% Jamaican by association. Even with my personal nod to Jamaica with my shoes and running gear, I will  have a Canadian flag patch prominently stitched into the combo, because let us not forget that I am 100% Canadian by birth. Funny thing though is that my Great-Great -Grandparents were in Jamaica for five years, just around 1840. Maybe that is the pull. Don’t know.

Doctor 'One Drop' Dread (my Reggae Name)

Doctor ‘One Drop’ Dread (my Reggae Name)

The Reggae Runners’ Half Marathon Challenge is something a growing number of friends indulge in just for fun. It started with three of us who met through the Reggae Marathon and related social media. When we discovered that the three of us were running a half marathon on the same day in three different places (New Jersey, Toronto, and Vancouver). Because of a wide age difference we decided to age-grade the results and use that for determining the winner. That was how Chris Morales (That Runnin’ Guy and official RM blogger), Larry Savitch and I got to know each other. By the time we got to the next Reggae Marathon our friend Navin Sadarangani had got into the mix and Deb Thomas. Last year, Jetola Anderson-Blair become a competitor and we continue to grow. The trash talk on the dedicated Facebook page gets pretty heated, but it is all in fun.

This year we will have a prize for the winner but also a special ‘Soon Come’ prize for the last place contestant. It is not simple to predict because we have three distances and ages from 35 to 69 and both genders. But, age-grading will prevail and we will have our prize winners. Oh, the ‘Soon Come’ award is being modeled by me above.

Reggae Marathon Buddies - showing 14, soon to be 18 appearances!

Reggae Marathon Buddies – showing 14, soon to be 18 appearances!

On a serious note I wanted to comment on one of my favourite photographs. It is Larry, Navin, Chris and me. Our backgrounds, heritages and such could hardly be more different, yet running brings us together and although we mostly have no personal contact other than when we show up in Negril, I think we truly are friends. The photo shows us holding up fingers to a total 14 Reggae Marathons. We have vowed the photo needs to be repeated this year and each can add another finger which will bring  the total to 18. I should say there are others who probably should be in the picture, but we four are kind of a core group and what knits us together is that when we met, we were all actively blogging about running.

The big pre-race pasta party will be Friday night and the weather looks like it will be good for the outdoor festivities. Big groups have made this their go-to event and several will be back. It is also very international. No count for 2014 but pretty common to see 30 or so countries represented. I’ve already met Americans, Belgians, Swiss, Dutch, Brazilians, and naturally a few Canadians, not to mention a bunch of Jamaicans. Stay tuned for more updates. Things are just getting going!

 

“I’M LEAVIN’ ON A JET PLANE……………”

12.04.2014
Perfect Sunset

Perfect Sunset

Yes, I AM going off very soon to Negril for the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K, and NO this post isn’t really about that.

I will happily admit that I was packed and ready to go as I looked at the November drizzle with promise of heavy rain later in the day, I was eagerly anticipating warm sunny beaches. I will also happily admit the Reggae Marathon weekend has become an annual favourite for this Seasoned Athlete. I have said lots about this race favourite and I assure you I AM going to say more once I’m in Negril and the event is unfolding.

However, this is really about the whole idea of destination racing. I’m not going to say the Reggae Marathon ISN’T going to get mentioned again, but for the rest of this it will only be an example.

The ultimate destination racer is the Marathon Maniac, and maybe more so  the 50 State marathoners. Of course, you don’t have to run marathons to be a destination racer, but these two groups MUST do destination races to achieve their goals. I know a few people who have made it a life mission to run the Marathon Majors, meaning a lot of travel. Yes, you can get three of them while staying to the USA, but then there is London, Berlin and Tokyo.

With that last example,  the question arises quickly as to just what a ‘destination race’ really is. I suppose in simplest terms it is one held where you don’t live and perhaps where you must travel far enough to need at least one night of accommodation. One thing I’m pretty sure about is that the destination event need not be huge (like NYCM). It can be like my first noted destination race, the Reggae Marathon, which is modest in size when you figure plus or minus 1500 participants are spread over three separate events (full marathon, half marathon and 10K). In fact, technically speaking, as long as the race is ‘away’ it could be pretty small if numbers of entrants is what you are counting.

Personally, I like the ‘runcation’. We won’t ask my wife about this. She does attend a fair number of my runcations but for her the destination better have something going for it beside the fact that someone is putting on a marathon or something. What is a runcation, you ask?  A vacation that involves a race, of course! I have done a LOT of destination races, including the vast majority of my marathons. I have done shorter distances as destination events and once or twice completed a race where the race was a happy accident that popped up during travel for some other reason.

While there are many single events that have every right to be on the top-flight list of destination races, we have seen the advent in recent times of corporate event organizers who market the destination event, such as the Competitor Group and their Rock ‘n’ Roll series, Destination Races (Wine Country races) and Revel which is specializing in downhill events in the very mountainous western states. The advantage of the corporate races using a branded name is that runners come to know what to expect. To be clear, that isn’t always good, but you do know what you are going to get. Event organization is built on the idea that a lot of the participants will be traveling in for the race. So, if you want to try out destination racing one of the purpose built events might be a good place to start. Or not. They will almost always be at least a half marathon and probably a marathon. To be fair, a good many do also have a shorter distance event packaged in, but most people seem to have a mind-set that to travel, you must at least be heading for a half. That really isn’t so, but what has logic got to do with anything?

One of the best destination races I did was one of the ‘accidental’ ones. We were helping our daughter move to Winnipeg, by delivering her car to her (I like long-distance driving; she doesn’t). Just happened that there was a great little 10K happening that also just happened to be the Manitoba Provincial 10K Championship. I (we, ’cause this is one of the trips my wife definitely wanted to do) got to visit with our daughter in her new home and to run with her, our son-in-law and also a friend from BC. There was even a bonus! I came third in my age category, so for a year was the M65-69 Manitoba 10K Bronze Medal Champion. Pretty neat, eh? Who asked how many people were in your age group? Who? What does that matter?  You really insist on knowing?  Well, there were three. So what is your point?

Running is not a terribly expensive sport. You really should wear decent shoes, and they are admittedly not inexpensive. You don’t have to race and if you do, nothing says you need to enter the big expensive events. However, if you want to run the destination races, it does cost some money. That makes these events more accessible to the young singles with a decent income AND to the ‘seasoned athlete’ who has moved on past some of the more demanding (time and money) family years.

There are ways to keep costs down, at least to some extent. You can organize groups and share driving and related costs. You can at least share accommodation and when traveling to far places at least consider local resorts vs five star, all-inclusive international chain resorts. If you can work it right, you can sometimes use a vacation package deal with flight and hotel at a place you want to race, although I have never pulled that off myself.  A couple of clubs I have belonged to have designated certain events as the ‘club event’ of the year and encouraged members to enter and then organized large group accommodations at the site of the race. And, what do you think airline or other rewards points are for??? We happen to own a time-share week and more than one destination race has been done using our week or some bonus offer (including Napa, Maui and Las Vegas marathons. just off the top of my head).

One of my favourite races is actually a relay, the Hood to Coast Relay, and at least during the race itself you don’t need accommodation at all – you just keep on running and sleep in a stinky van (if you can). Most times I’ve ever done this one, the total for a four day weekend, three races (legs) covering a total of 200 miles, including the entry fee has been less than $500 per person. As such things go, that is really pretty good!

If you are really dedicated to a destination race, you can save money with planning. Enter at the earliest opportunity. Watch for flight deals if you have to travel by air. Gather your points and use for hotels or trips. The older I get, the less I do this. Why? Well, it sure isn’t because I have unlimited money. No, it is because a lot of events and cheap air-fares aren’t so cheap if you have to cancel due to an unexpected injury. At my level of ‘seasoning’, waiting (even if it costs a bit more) is a kind of insurance against losing it all. Everything considered, I run pretty healthy, but every once in a while, there is enough of an injury that a given race may go by the wayside. Actually, this is a good reason to really concentrate on the ‘runcation’. If you are going somewhere for a great vacation and you have to scrap the racing, you still have a wonderful vacation and the only loss is (maybe) the entry fee. For instance, one of my runcations was Maui, for the Maui Marathon. If I had to (I didn’t) cancel the marathon race, I would still have had two fabulous weeks in Hawaii. Same is true for the Reggae Marathon. I left nearly 10 days ahead of the race, but even though I am registered for the half marathon, I still haven’t 100% decided if I will run that distance, the marathon, or the 10K. I have reasons to do all of them, but the big reason to go is to participate and to have an amazing vacation. It is fairly hard to lose on a deal like that. So, while the trip is not inexpensive, I will still get a great vacation whether I run or not, and no matter which of the race distances I finally choose.

There is something about being in a given place with the sole intent of participating in a race. For those who haven’t ever tried it, there really is something about just being there to run/race. Frankly, even on a runcation, for me the vibe is the same either way. One of the things I love about the Reggae Marathon is that for the few days around that event, most of the people you encounter are there for the same reason. It creates an energy you won’t find any other way.

If you haven’t got the idea by now that I really like this kind of running, well I can’t help you. If you’ve been thinking about making your first destination race or runcation, what are you waiting for? Well, actually, I can tell you one reason you should wait. Unless you have unlimited travel and running budgets, planning is very important. Do take the time to select a few races that really appeal. Take the time to figure out the logistics of training, time of year, other priorities in your life and the overall destination as a place you want to go. Then, if you do need to watch the pennies, take the time to organize something you will enjoy at a price you can afford.

Warning: This kind of thing can be quite habit-forming.

Running Down Big Cottonwood Canyon - My most recent marathon.

Running Down Big Cottonwood Canyon – My most recent marathon.

TO (P)B OR NOT TO (P)B? THAT IS THE QUESTION

11.16.2014
Vancouver Finish May 1988- My first marathon.

Vancouver Finish 1988 – My first marathon.

And, an interesting question it is if you are the least competitive of spirit.

Get yourself around some runners for a bit and inevitably somebody starts talking about PBs (Personal Bests). Then of course, there is the PR (Personal Record). Some use them interchangeably and others don’t. I used to be one of the former but may be becoming the latter. Why? Because I’m getting old. Some might say I AM old. Some days I feel old, but others I feel remarkably young. STOP LAUGHING!

Where it comes to running – old, young or indifferent, I AM slower. Anybody who has read this blog more than a couple of times will know of my interest in, perhaps love of, Age Grading. Plus or minus, I have been running for over 30 years. There have been a few ‘down’ times in there where it was hard to get a regular run in and I definitely wasn’t racing. As a result of that I really have two distinct racing phases. When I got going at about 39 I did a couple of races, but over the next few years I ran a bunch of them (40 or so). As I ran more, I also ran faster. I kind of peaked when I was 43-44. Except for distances I didn’t run until later/recently, all my PRs came in that 18 month period in 1988-89.

I had back surgery in 1990 and missed some running before and a little after that, but by the next year I was racing again. While the back was actually pretty good, work and life just got in the way of much racing. I was still running, but did not have the time to really train for racing. Around 1998-99 I wanted to race again and wound up with a big focus race in October of 2000, my second marathon. From there I ran more and raced some. One strange thing was that I lived in Malaysia for most of two years in the early 2000s and ran maybe five days a week, but never raced in SE Asia. (Now, I keep asking myself: Why? Why? Why?) I started really picking  up the racing again in the mid-2000s and have continued steadily with some really big years of racing in the last few. Unless I quit in January with my next (70th) birthday (and why would I with a brand new age category to race in?) I see no great drop in races for the next while. That is, I expect to do 10-12 per year.

Who cares?

Why did I lay all this out?

Well, my main reason was to create context for the discussion of the PB/PR and because I try to use personal examples to illustrate my points. I have run for 30 years and while I am nearing 200 individual races ranging from 1 Mile to a 50K Ultra, my racing career is anything but a smooth or steady progression. Because it isn’t a smooth and consistent record, I have had a few relatively good years later on compared to earlier ones. I have had some very satisfying races such as my third best ever marathon run in 2010, 22 years after my first and best and 10 years after my second best. Age-Graded, that marathon comes pretty close to being #1. But, 2010 was a very good year. I was training hard and running well.

Some people say you can’t be trying to beat yourself of 20 years ago. For goodness-sake, that was the essential basis of Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes. ‘Those people’, some of them anyway, like to use and cite 5-Year PBs. It does kind of make sense. Except that race record keeping is done on five year age brackets, there is actually nothing magical about specific five year groupings. It is convenient to use the ones the races use and I can’t generally think of a good reason to do otherwise, but if you wanted to, you could.

In my own case, I just happened to really start running when I was 40-44. Before I was 45 I suffered the back problem that required surgery. So, there I was with a nice neat personal five year package that just happens to fit with conventional groupings. I was even clever enough to get born in early January so I always get the full year (first/last) within these nice groupings and within the calendar year. As I said, I ran all my best times at conventional distances during that time. As a result, ALL my PRs came then, too. As previously noted, the only races where I had PB/PR results after that were of distances I had never run: a 30K in 2010 and a 50K in 2013.

I ran a few races in the 45-49 and 50-54 age categories, but only really started hitting it harder for 55-59, then really hard for 60-64 and most recently 65-69. Just this year I reworked all my race stats and broke out my 5-year PBs. I had kept a race result chart for years with a single category section devoted to PBs for given distances, which were really PRs as they were my bests ever at any given distance. Now, at the end of each 5 year age category I have recorded the regular distance PB stats for that age group.

When you have a competitive nature and the times gradually keep getting slower and slower it is not hard to feel like you are ‘fading away’, especially if you are comparing to the best you ever were. If you look at the last five years, the picture sometime looks a bit different. I have certainly found that in my personal performance. The ‘best’ year in the last five is not necessarily the first/youngest year. Within any given five years it can be a lot more about how hard you have trained, injured/healthy and how motivated you have been to race, at least where it comes to the PB result.

Young folk don’t really get this because sometimes, even though they may be getting older they ARE getting faster in absolute terms. I mean, I even did that myself when I was in my early forties. My earliest 10K times, when I was getting started, were just under an hour. By the time I was 44 I was at a 42 minute 10K time. Young folk often seem to think age-grading is funny and don’t really get it. Until you are around 35 it makes no difference. If you are younger than that the big issue is probably how hard you are willing to work at it. As noted above, within reason training hard even works at my age, but not in the absolute sense. The idea that I might run a marathon under my PR of 3:25 next year, when I’m 70, is just silly. The idea that I might run one that age-grades to a similar or better performance is something else, maybe something achievable. It would be far from a PR. In fact, on raw time it would be almost an hour slower! It would have to be just a wee bit better than the marathon I ran in 2010 and which is now my third best raw result. Clearly, that is not a PR result, but it would certainly qualify as some kind of recent PB and thus, we have the argument for looking at PBs and PRs a little differently.

Eugene Marathon - 2010 - Recent PB race.

Eugene Marathon – 2010 – Recent PB race.

Simply to put the last comments into context, consider that my PR marathon was done at a time of 3:25 when I was 43. Age grading can help that time too and to make a fair comparison, both times should be age graded (if it makes a difference). So, that time grades to one of 3:15:08 (64.1%). My recent PB in 2010 at age 65 with raw time of 4:28:15 grades to 3:27:18 (60.3%). So now, and very much in theory, at age 70 I would need to run a raw time of 4:42:00 to grade to 3:27:21 (60.2%) and be as ‘good’ as in 2010. To be better than my absolute best race from 1988, I would need a raw time of 4:25:00 (which would also theoretically be a BQ). That would result in a 3:14:51 (64.1%) age-graded performance. Now you can see how I might set some realistic goals for a satisfying race result without being held back by a clock time that doesn’t look so impressive in absolute terms. To better my 2010 self, I would need to run only 8 minutes faster than my running time for my last marathon, done this past September. That sounds rather realistic, I think. Can I do it? Will I do it?  Will I even run another marathon? Those are all different questions, but it is good to know that if I decide to try, the goal is achievable. Is the twenty-five minute differential between my best ever age-graded performance and my last best marathon doable? Maybe. Would it be hard? Absolutely. Will I go for it? Well now, that is a horse of a different hue, as my wise old uncle used to say.

The only reason I have taken all this time to lay this out is to offer the concept to other seasoned athletes who may still be where I was even just a year ago. We all do what we do and look at things our own way, but separating your PR and PB performances into quite different things will give a new perspective. For the competitive, it also gives a more realistic goal to be achieved. In my own case, largely because of my birth date, the conventional five year categories work exceptionally well, but there is nothing to stop you from using “the last five years” and just keep it rolling forward. There is also nothing magical about five years for that matter. Unless you happen to be REALLY good and chasing single age records, it is all just for your own satisfaction in any case.

Running Down Big Cottonwood Canyon - My most recent marathon.

Running Down Big Cottonwood Canyon – My most recent marathon.

I was going to leave it at this point, but if you do get into age-grading your results, some feel (might just include me) the % Performance stat is more meaningful than the converted time. The age adjusted time is simpler to understand since we are used to looking at our finish times. If my raw 10K time is 59:30 and the age-graded time is 43:21, there is an easily understood relativity. However, if your best 10K time was 40:00, run when you were 40, it might come out at around 70% Performance. But, if you run 50:00 at the age of 70, your Performance might come out at 73%, indicating that in relative and competitive terms the ‘slower’ time is actually superior. In many ways that says a lot more about the relative quality of your performance than does the converted time. In fact, I now train and race to the %P standard and aim to get all my best results for any given year to be stable at the chosen level(s).

This turned out a bit longer than I intended, but hope it might help runners with a competitive spirit to put long-term performance into a meaningful and hopefully, satisfying context.

IS IT TOO SOON TO START HUMMING “ONE LOVE”?

11.07.2014
Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K

Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K

Of course not!

Besides, I am still hoping some running friends from Western Canada will be overwhelmed with my enthusiasm and decide to join me in Negril, Jamaica for the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K on December 6. Won’t help much if I wait until the day before I leave to post up this item

Chris (That Runnin' Guy) Morales with Jetola Anderson-Blair and Lisa Laws (Head Honcha of the Reggae Running 'Black Girlz')

Chris (That Runnin’ Guy) Morales with Jetola Anderson-Blair and Lisa Laws (Head Honcha of the Reggae Running ‘Black Girlz’)

Of course the title reference is to Bob Marley’s iconic song, but it somehow represents the feel of this event for me and many others. This is not some touchy-feely thing I’m talking about, but this event has a kind of ‘family’ vibe or something. It is why I keep going back. True, I have found a small and growing circle of Reggae Marathon friends that make it special for me, but it is quite clear when you get there, that many people are having the same experience. Black Girlz Run has been making an appearance for several years and say they will top the 150 or so that showed up last year.

 

Easy Skankin'

Easy Skankin’

Easy Skankin’ (easy there folks, it is another Marley song reference) is back for maybe their fourth year. I could keep listing other groups (there are a bunch), but I think you have the idea.

Part of it may be that except for the very best runners, nobody expects a super great finish time (We’re here for a GOOD time, not a FAST time…..). The course is pancake flat, but it is normally pretty warm, moving on to hot if you take more than three hours to complete the marathon. Make no mistake, the record times are very respectable (Marathon: 2:21:05, Half: 1:08:32 and 10K: 29:55) , but most people are there for the experience.

Pasta Party Dec 6, 2013, cw one of the 'Black Girlz'

Pasta Party Dec 6, 2013, cw one of the ‘Black Girlz’ (in green team shirt)

When you drop expectations and enjoy the moment everything changes. You see it from the time you pick up your package and head to (what just might be) the “Best Pasta Party in the World”  and right on through the early start (5:14 AM early!). Oh, and while Jamaica may have a bit of a ‘soon come’ reputation, that does not apply to ‘Frano’, Race Director, who WILL send everyone out exactly at 5:15 AM. The enjoyment just starts to increase from then as you run to the sound of Caribbean music including steel drums, but here – mostly reggae.

The start is usually around 22-23C, or about 70F, plus or minus. It stays that way until the sun actually comes up around 6:45 AM. Around 6:30 AM, the sky begins to brighten and colour and if you aren’t too busy dance/running to the sounds or talking to a fellow runner, you can’t avoid some deep feeling welling up. If you just happen to be running ‘alone’ and passing by someone blasting “One Love” or even “Three Little Birds” don’t be surprised if you are overtaken with emotion (the good kind). It has happened to me!

Reggae Marathoners just before full light

Reggae Marathoners just before full light

If you are doing the 10K you might just be finishing before the sun is peaking over the horizon, and frankly, the 10K section might be the most exciting and energetic part of the course, which starts and finishes ‘in the middle’ of the route. Everybody starts out heading for Negril Town which is about 5K down the road. At the round-about you head back toward the start and when you get there the 10K folk are done. This section has most of the smaller, ‘local’ resorts, shops, eating places and such. Despite the hour, there are lots of people on the street cheering you on and ever so enthusiastic volunteers to keep you hydrated and (if you needed it) your spirits up. Half marathoners carry on past the finish and into the sunrise. Depending on how fast you might be, this is probably where you are going to encounter that morning magic I talked about earlier. This section has more of the larger ‘top end’ resorts, but still lots of spectators and sometimes hotel staff with spray hoses to cool you or sometimes goodies from the cooking staff.

Turbojet Negril

Turbojet after the marathon!

ThatRunninGuy Reggae Marathon Finish

ThatRunninGuy Reggae Marathon Finish

Myself, I like the Half because even someone going at my pace will finish not terribly long after the sun is fully up and the beach is at its best. Yes, the beach. The finish (and start) is at Long Bay Beach Park. Regardless of which of the three distances you might choose, when it is time to finish you will slip off the main road at an angle, into the finish chute. The only thing ‘wrong’ with the 10K is you don’t get to run Bob’s Mile. Again, lots of Marley inspired music and signs every hundred metres or so with “Bob’s Wisdom”. Don’t be surprised, again, if Bob’s Wisdom hits you somewhere deep. This is not just a coincidence or ‘riding the coat-tails’ of the Marley legend. There is a very real connection between race organizers and the Marley family. The marathon winners’ trophies (male and female) were donated by Rita Marley.

Reggae Marathon Buddies - showing 14, soon to be 18 appearances!

Reggae Marathon Buddies – showing 14, soon to be 18 appearances!

TSweet Reggae Music (800x678)he finish area, no matter when you get there is a place many don’t want to leave. Oh sure, there is the fresh cut coconut, the bananas (nothing quite like the taste of a banana in the place where it actually grew), pineapple (same deal) and Red Stripe and the band and the massage tents, but again it is one of those places where everyone is just feeling good, the kind of good you wish you could bottle and take home. In a way, I guess you can, but not in a bottle – just in your heart.

Even pre and post-race times have a happy vibe. Regardless of the fact that there are shuttles to the start, many walk the relatively short distances if they are within a mile or so (I usually am). The ‘party’ starts right there on the road. After everything is done and you REALLY must leave the finish area, well there is nothing better than strolling back to your ‘home away from home’, bare-foot along the waters edge on that seven mile white sand beach.

Navin Sadarangani finishing first loop of the Marathon as the sun comes up.

Navin Sadarangani finishing first loop of the Marathon as the sun comes up.

You might have noticed I didn’t say anything about the full marathon. That is partly because I have never done it. I intended to the very first time in 2011, but some transportation disaster struck and I wound up doing a very late starting 10K. I am still feeling I want to try. Will it be this year? Not according to my current registration, but they do allow you to change events. I don’t need to run another marathon, ever. Nothing says I must run the Reggae Marathon, still……………………….. A couple of my Reggae Marathon friends are encouraging me to ‘just do it’. Curiously enough they are both marathoners and Marathon Maniacs and pictured in this blog! They say you shouldn’t take advice from crazy people, but that has never stopped me in the past. It certainly isn’t that it can’t be done, heat or no heat. Of course, you do have to respect that heat if you are going come through in good condition. The race looks after you re hydration and such, but once that tropical sun is up (as it certainly would be for anyone at my pace) you must respect it. Reasonable running strategy and expectations help and they give almost anyone enough time to ‘Get ‘er Done’. We’ll see. Probably only decide after I get there and remind myself what running in tropical heat is all about. For that matter, my ego might make me drop to the 10K where I might just be able to score a podium finish in my age group!

The Challenge

The Challenge

 

Three Amigos at Ricks

Three Amigos at Ricks

Once that is all done, it will be time to have fun with all those old, and almost certainly, a few new Reggae Marathon friends. Some of us even have our own little mini competition going, called the Reggae Runners Half Marathon Challenge. Mostly it is about trash-talk and bragging rights. We have young(ish) and old, male and female, and all three distances involved. Through the miracle of the World Masters Athletics age grading calculator, we will be able to bring everyone to an age-graded half marathon time and determine the 2014 champ. Gee, I wonder if the Marleys would give us a trophy?????

 

Morning Beach Scene - Negril, JA

Morning Beach Scene – Negril, JA

Rock ‘n’ Roll is Here to Stay

11.02.2014
Striking Finisher Medal

Striking Finisher Medal

Well, at least for another year. How do I know? Well, the super-bargain advance registration for 2015 is already ‘live’.

Of course, the Rock ‘n’ Roll I’m referring to is the Rock ‘n’ Roll Oasis Vancouver Half Marathon and James Cunningham 10K, both were run October 26. They have billed the event as Vancouver’s newest half marathon and oldest 10K. The ‘new’ part is easy enough and definitely true until somebody else starts one. As for the Cunningham 10K (now 40 years) some might argue that it is also Vancouver’s newest 10K. You see, until 2014 the James Cunningham Seawall Race never was quite 10K, close but not quite.  Why? Because the Seawall is a few hundred metres shy of 10K. Newer runners who didn’t know that, used to get very excited about their 10K PB’s until they sadly found out otherwise. BUT, who is going to niggle? James Cunningham, staged by Lions Gate Road Runners is a Vancouver fixture and has been a  great event for every one of those 40 years. It was/is also a tonne of fun, coming so close to Halloween. Many people run in costume and just have fun with it, something we should all do from time to time.

[Before I go any farther, I should say this article took a bit longer than usual to post , but it was ‘one of those weeks’.]

As I made my decision to participate, I chose the Half Marathon, but then wondered if I did the right thing. The 10K James Cunningham race is every bit the great event I just described, but for some reason this VERY Seasoned Runner has never done it. Don’t know why really, but I haven’t. Well OK, one reason is that I haven’t lived in or near Vancouver for all FORTY of those years. Guess there have also been some date conflicts (personal and running) from time to time, too. Anyway, my not having run James Cunningham is no ‘statement’, just a sad fact. I should probably fix that next year!

Anyway, for better or for worse, I chose the Half. It was my second half marathon in two weeks (three weekends) and third race, with a leg of the Whistler 50 slotted in between the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Half Marathon and this weekend’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Half. It has been a busy Fall running schedule for me, with the Revel Big Cottonwood Marathon (Salt Lake City, UT) in mid-September and then these three races in rapid succession. There have been a lot of firsts in there: first marathon in Utah, first screaming downhill marathon (same one), first time for Whistler 50 Relay, and first (guess it really had to be) Rock ‘n’ Roll Vancouver event. Although I would have to go back and check carefully, the two half marathons may be my first qualifying sequence required to be a Half Fanatic. Of which sort of people, there were PLENTY at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half.

As an old RD, I have a hard time running races without looking at an event from that perspective. One of the first things is the pre-race ‘conveniences’ (nice word for toilets). It was a big crowd at the Half start (the Cunningham race started in a different location), but there were porto-potties for miles. As we inched toward the actual start (and our wave’s turn to go, uh, RUN that is), I particularly noted that there was virtually nobody still waiting to use a PP. In other words, there were plenty.

The second thing I look for is an ‘on-time’ start. They got that too. That was not true of my last Rock ‘n’ Roll experience and a bit of a sore point as it spun out later in the race. It was also a positive in the long run. More on this a bit later.

I do hope that there may be a course revision. The first mile or so is great as you head to and through Gastown. The finish, although it was moved rather late in the game, was in a fabulous location in my opinion. I know that as I was coming around the last bit of the Seawall toward Devonian Park, it just felt right that as soon as I passed the “Zero” marker on the Seawall (yes, there is a marker) the finish was right there. You could hear it and see it for a good distance and knew you were about to arrive. Twice, I’ve finished races (marathon and half) that come around that last corner, but then continue on into the concrete and glass of downtown. There is something to be said for that finish, too, but having experienced both, I’m now a fan of Devonian Park!

They sure got it right taking the route onto the False Creek Seawall or Promenade. The Stanley Park segment (mostly on the road for the Half) is never wrong for any race. For visitors to Vancouver, (and from my casual chatting before, during and after, there were plenty of those) those parts of the route must have seemed amazing. From a very personal perspective I hope there can be a rethink of the bit from about 2-5K. It never enhanced the old Vancouver Marathon route (running the other direction) and it doesn’t match the rest of this particular route. I know part of it was a bit last minute in adjusting for the change to the finish. Given a year to work on it, I hope there might be a positive adjustment, but even if  it isn’t possible, this is still going to be one of the most scenic routes for Vancouver races.

Now, what was this thing about not starting on time in another Rock ‘n’ Roll race and why was that so big a deal? Briefly, I ran the Las Vegas Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon almost one year ago. For reasons guys like me (old RDs) understand very well, they had a strict time limit and for marathons as run in these days, a somewhat restrictive one of 5 hours. More correctly, it was a 5-hour pace to three critical points on the course. If you got by those diversion points you could actually take a lot more than five hours to finish. BUT, if you did not pass the critical points, you would be diverted (or picked up and transported, if necessary). I had been running a lot of marathons last year and knew a five hour pace through 15 miles was fully feasible. I registered and made the travel arrangements. There were a lot of fine statements about how the five hour period was a chip based time and the ‘clock’ would only start running after the last marathoner chip crossed the start-line and all marathoners would start within a certain time.  And that is where it all started going wrong.

The race was about five minutes late starting the first wave. It seems nobody told the cop at 15 miles. When I (and about 20 other runners) hit that 15 mile diversion point, we got shorted about 8 minutes. Notwithstanding the talk of chips and related stuff, the cop on the road had apparently been instructed that 8pm was the diversion time. Nobody told him (I assume) to add five minutes for the late start. On top of that, and I don’t know why, he took out another three minutes, putting the diversion in at (satellite time) 7:57pm. The howls of protest were many and loud – some even tried to argue our case. Had I missed the time, there would be not a word of protest on my part, but I (and those other 20 and I’m not sure how many more that were behind us, but within that eight minute window) did not fail our part of the bargain. There were other issues, too, but this was the biggie. Nobody on the ground seemed to care. I finished, collected my medal and then I complained.

Yes, I complained. A lot of people might just go away mad and might tell people not to run the event, or maybe any Competitor Group event. The Rock ‘n’ Roll Series is already part of a bit of a love-hate relationship in the running community. I felt that if I did not tell the organizers what I thought, I could hardly expect them to explain, or do something about it for the future. The Rock ‘n’ Roll events are what they are, a commercial venture. If you don’t want to run such races, don’t. If you like what is on offer, enjoy. This series of races fills a market niche and the needs of a lot of people. I have no idea how many ‘first timers’ take part, but I’m guessing the proportion is high. The hype, the fun, the glitz and glamour and the bling are a big draw for those first-timers.  But, old or not, I am still competitive of spirit and running the race properly is important in my mind.

As I said, I complained. What I am getting to is that THEY LISTENED. I got real attention from Competitor Group, not just a stock letter saying they were sorry I didn’t find everything perfect, and thanks for your comments. I actually had direct meetings with representatives of the Competitor Group and serious discussions. I said there were also a bunch of lesser issues and they listened and considered all of them. Has anything changed in Las Vegas? Firstly, the race hasn’t run yet, so no proof one way or another. Do I think they won’t repeat the same mistakes? I’m pretty sure they won’t. Will anyone notice? Well, that is the hard thing. We tend not to notice things that go right. When something goes wrong, we definitely notice. Oh, yes! That is a big part of the reason I have decided to include this commentary.

People who follow this blog may have noticed that I wrote rather enthusiastically about going to Vegas and “Running the Strip at Night”, but when all was said and run, there was no follow-up. Well, now you know why. I don’t like to be negative, but sure wasn’t going to sing the praises of a race I felt had got it seriously wrong. That is why I am writing this now. I want to give credit where it is due. They really didn’t need to pay any attention to me, but they did. I felt it was important to take another look from the inside and what better way than to give the ‘hometown’ race a try. I have to say it was a very positive experience and I am definitely glad I did.

I had a lot of fun. Maybe part of it was the weather. Anyone who was in Vancouver on October 25 and remembers, will know what a disaster Sunday’s race could have been. Sunday turned out to be near perfect for racing, cool and mostly sunny. Part of the fun was beating my Victoria time by 15 seconds! OK, to be honest, I really wanted to beat it by more than that and maybe in terms of pure running, I did. According to my gps device I ran 21.5km. That is more likely a statement about my attention to running each and every tangent than about the accuracy of the course. Seems like I ran 21.37km in Victoria, but I know most of that route very well, having run it some 11 times in the last 15 years. Part of the post-race fun was comparing the two events, run so close together.  I could happily see the race Sunday was a better performance. I always like that. It is about the only thing a competitive  minded person like me can hope for at this point in my career.

The truth is that everyone runs for her or his reasons and therefore have individual perspectives. Is the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half going to be one of Vancouver’s top races? All I can say is that I saw a bunch of happy faces around that finish area, and a lot of people appearing to have fun on the course. Sounds to me like a heck of a good start!

THEY GROW UP SO FAST!

10.13.2014
35 th Victoria Marathon

35 th Victoria Marathon

The title refers to races, daughters and blog posts!

We’ll start with the last. My most recent post was a bunch of small items that had potential to ‘grow up to be full blog posts’. Well, the one on the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon, the first item of that last post, has grown up already! I suppose, considering the original post was made after the 2014 Race Expo had already started, that was a bit of a given.

The “Royal Victoria Marathon” is now 35 years old! Nice work, all those who have made that happen, but especially the crew that has been in place most of the time that I have known this event. The marathon goes back all 35 years. The other race weekend events have a bit of a different history, but are also what makes the whole thing work and drew some 10,000 participants this weekend.

Danielle Krysa and her Dad - that would be ME!

Danielle Krysa and her Dad – that would be ME!

Finally, there’s that thing about ‘daughters’. As I’ve said a number of times, Victoria is the family ‘go to’ race. The 35th Victoria Marathon Weekend was no exception. Our oldest, Danielle Krysa, ran her 10th half marathon on Sunday, showing the way to her old man. Still, this was a bit of a come-back for her, as she had taken a couple of years off from the half marathon. Ummm, and dare I mention it, she now runs in the W40-44 category. Talk about GROWING UP! How did that happen??? Why, I am barely out of that age group myself! OK, OK, maybe I’m a bit beyond that now, but sometimes it just seems that way. I really do feel like I am still back there about 25 years or so. As for the third member of the Cumming Family Runners, she is a bit busy ‘running for two’ just now, so not involved this time, except as a (distant) spectator.

Finishing up with family, we also got to celebrate our son’s (recent) birthday (he lives in Victoria) and visit with son-in-law and grandson. Speaking of ‘growing up’, Charlie (the grandson) is now eight. He already competes in kids triathlons. Pretty soon, grandfather and grandson are going to have to run a race together! Hmmmmm. Next year? 8K?  We could make this a really big family event. Janna, the other daughter mentioned above, called right after with congratulations and to say how she was missing this weekend. I’m seeing a big running celebration in 2015! I’ve run events with all three of our kids, with both my sons-in-law and my wife, Judi too. If everybody showed up in Victoria next Fall, we would make quite the team!  I think I have a new project!

Once again, Victoria put on a fabulous event. Part of the fabulousness (is that a word?) is the inclusiveness. There is everything from a kids’ run to the full marathon and abilities ranging from tentative first timers in the 8K to the swift elites bringing home both the half and full marathon events. When 10,000 participants show up to celebrate a weekend of running, you know you are doing something right.

The Victoria courses are interesting in that they are far from flat. Still, a lot of people turn in very good times, including PR’s and in the marathon a very high ratio of BQ times. Maybe it is the scenery (distracts you) or maybe it is the ‘rolling’ terrain that keeps different muscles working. Don’t know, but some of my own better times (half and full) have come from Victoria.

Three Amigos: Roger, Dan and BH Steve. (Photo: M. Buttner)

Three Amigos: Roger, Dan and BH Steve. (Photo: M. Buttner)

One of the big things about the Expo is the speaker series, which always includes top quality participants and plenty of them. This has been so, as long as I’ve been going to this event (15 years now). One of the key speakers this weekend was Roger Robinson. Roger never disappoints. He is also a contributor to Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes, and not infrequently a guest right here on the blog. It was good fun chatting with Roger on the sides and catching up on the latest news about him and his goodly wife, Kathrine Switzer. We had a moment with good friend, Bobble-Head Steve! Last time we were together was in Yakima, this past April for the Yakima River Canyon Marathon.

Steve King X2 (from Penticton Herald)

Steve King X2 (from Penticton Herald)

Roger was just one of eight RITZ (book) contributors in Victoria this weekend. Of course, Steve King (the non-bobbling one) was there calling runners through the finish, as only he can. Also on site were Evan Fagan, working tirelessly as a volunteer until it was time to don his shoes and do his latest marathon (#145, I believe). Of course, Rob Reid was there greeting everyone at the finish, as he has done for years now. So great to hit that finish, hear Steve’s voice and get that handshake and/or hug from Rob. (He still doesn’t know how close he came to having me barf on him a couple of years back when I really pushed my half marathon finish. Well, ‘close’ only counts in horse-shoes!)

Joe Henderson of Runners World fame (one of the original editors, he was), took part in the half marathon himself, but also brought his group from Eugene for the event. Had a great talk with him and learned a bunch of stuff. Joe is a bit older than me (nobody is saying exactly how much) and has moved into a new approach that I should be considering, for marathons anyway – slower/funner. Apparently, we passed each other somewhere around the half marathon turn-around. I was ahead and didn’t actually see Joe going the other way. He said I was going so fast he only had time for a quick wave!  Joe is my new Best Friend Forever! Nobody has EVER said that about me.

Although I unfortunately didn’t have a chance to see him and chat, Maurice Tarrant was not only there, but took First Place in the Half Marathon for M80-84, with a chip time of 2:19:28. I am pleased to say I beat him. So what if it was only by 3 minutes and 11 seconds? Maurice is such an amazing athlete!

As I’m adding up all the names of all the Running in the Zone contributors, I really should go back to Danielle Krysa. In her other life (when she is not being a runner and a mother and wife and an artist and a writer) she is a graphic designer. She too contributed to both Running in the Zone (the book) and this blog site by designing the book cover and the look of this blog! So, I guess, although she didn’t actually write anything, she would be the ninth RITZ contributor present and accounted for in Victoria this weekend.

Finally, Doug Alward was also there. I saw him on the ferry going over. At that point he said he was just there in support of a friend. However, the friend was trying to tell him he should run! Apparently, she was convincing. He won his M55-59 age group and was 53rd OA in the Half Marathon with a time of 1:23:33. Well done!  Doug has one of the most powerful pieces in Running in the Zone with his recounting of his friendship with Terry Fox, and his life-long inspiration. Doug drove Terry’s van, but they were friends from the age of about 13, so the piece in the book was far more than the story of the Marathon of Hope itself. And, of course, Terry Fox now watches over the runners in statue form at Mile Zero (which also just happens to be about 3K to go to the finish)! Never fails to inspire this runner to dig down for those last few K’s!

There are a number of things I like about this event but one of the biggies is the out and back nature of the course that means the lead athletes in the Half Marathon loop back against the course so that many people will see them in Beacon Hill Park, and if not there then somewhere after the 9K mark. Because of the Marathon’s later start, the Half Marathoners will also see the lead Marathon runners as the Halfers head to the finish. And, the pack Marathoners also benefit from the counter-flow, albeit at a different part of the course, to glimpse and be inspired by the leaders.

So, I know there are nearly 10,000 individual and personal stories of this event. This is mine. Once again, Victoria has come through with a most memorable weekend! Thanks to everyone who made it so.