Ho Hum to Banner Year in a Few Easy ‘Clicks’

02.01.2016
Getting ready to run the First Half, but won't be up with these guys!

Getting ready to run the First Half, but won’t be up with these guys!

Some of this isn’t new news, but I have been personally thrilled about things that have happened in the last while that have turned 2016 from a year where I intended to continue running but without much more of a plan than to ‘do it’.

Wow, has that ever changed!

I am already officially registered to run four of my favourite events of all time and committed to one more as soon as registration opens.

Eugene Marathon - 2010 - Good Times (and a good time).

Eugene Marathon – 2010 – Good Times (and a good time).

In February, I will run the First Half Half Marathon, for the very first time. I’ve talked about this before, so we’ll just leave that for now. As noted here quite recently, I am a Race Ambassador for the Eugene Marathon. That comes up in May and is also a real favourite. (PS, don’t forget the Ambassador has a discount code to share!) Flashing forward to late August, after several years of trying unsuccessfully, I got a team accepted into the Hood to Coast Relay. Oh yeah! Registered, and recruited a full team already. The fourth event is the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon. This one is going to be a bit different because rather than the full or half marathon, I will (again, a first) be running the 8K with grandson Charlie.

Home stretch of Giant's Head Run (2015)

Home stretch of Giant’s Head Run (2015)

So there you have it! Just like that, all registered in four of my favourite racing events. BUT WAIT (as they say on the TV ads) that isn’t all. I am committed to a reprise of the Giant’s Head Run with Charlie in June. That makes FIVE really special races in the schedule and it has only just turned February.

I’ve already made posts about the First Half and Eugene so let me dodge ahead to October and the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon Weekend. It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that knows me, that I have a spot in my heart and race schedule for this event. My first ‘doing’ of this event was in 2000, when it was still the Royal Victoria Marathon. I made my marathon come-back there. Well, if you can call running  your second marathon a ‘come-back’.  In a way it was, since I ran the first one in 1988, wound up with a serious back problem and operation that happened in May of 1990. Then, later in that decade I just got so busy that I mostly didn’t race at all until about 1998. The time wasn’t totally without racing, but it was pretty sporadic. I ran but mostly did not race or train to race. I did actually start training for a marathon in 1991 while living/working in Brussels, Belgium, but it fell through for lack of training time.

Janna Finishing RVM, October 2000.

Janna Finishing her First Marathon. RVM, October 2000.

So, it took until October 2000 and a lot of serious intent to ‘get er done’, before Marathon #2 went into the books. Well since then I have run a total of six half marathons and 5 marathons and launched our Running in the Zone book, at Victoria. This year, as noted, I will run the 8K for the very first time and it will be special because I’ll be running with my new running buddy, Charlie. By October, it should be at least our third race together. I hope I will still be able to stay with him. In case it isn’t obvious, we are kind of going in opposite directions where it comes to running pace. I figure it is only a matter of time (and not much of it) until I’m saying “See you at the finish” and meaning “Please wait for me at the finish”. I suppose it isn’t that I’m losing ground at such a rapid pace, but I know Charlie is going to get faster, and soon. If I had to predict, it would be something like this. In 2015 in the Giant’s Head Run, I had to pace to Charlie’s current capability. In 2016, I am kind of betting we may be on somewhat the same level. By October, he may have to slow down for me. Maybe not quite yet, but soon. As I said, we are kind of moving in opposite directions, but that is a good thing.

Danielle, Dan and Janna 2007 at Victoria Marathon

Danielle, Dan and Janna 2007 at Victoria Marathon

If that wasn’t enough, it is going to be a full-on family running weekend! Out of the 11 previous Victoria appearances, most have involved one or the other of our daughters (Danielle and Janna) and sometimes both. And, while I was running my second marathon, Janna was running her first! That was a big event for all of us. Not only did Janna and I run our first marathon together, it inspired Danielle to take on the challenge of the marathon a year later in Toronto. I recently added up the total for the extended family and all together, counting kids and spouses of kids plus me, our full marathon count has now reached 36! Not even going to bother to check but our half marathons are probably pushing 100. The family that runs together……………….

Our son lives in Victoria and has agreed that he will get in the spirit and do the 8K too. Danielle and Janna and their families will be there. Both sons-in-law run and wife Judi is ready to take on a challenging walk. Right now, details are still being sorted. Danielle is registered for the Half and Charlie and I are registered for the 8K. Everybody else is thinking about the distance they might do. But, I do know hotels have been booked, so it is definitely on. I know one son-in-law is looking for another marathon to do, but not too likely this is going to be the one because of his schedule. We have one grandson too young to run and with race rules prohibiting strollers, is unable to ride. So, there still needs to be some sorting of who is running what and who looks after Jonah. However it works out, this is going to be one big family celebration of running! Going to be a highlight of my year for sure.

Bob's Border Busters - Hood to Coast 1987

Bob’s Border Busters – Hood to Coast 1987

Backing up a bit, Hood to Coast will be a great event for me too. The first time was in 1987. This will be the ninth, but they were not evenly spaced. Number Two was 1989, but Number Three was in 2006. There have certainly been a lot of changes including numbers of teams and even the finish location, which naturally means the route too, especially from Portland onward. In the early days it was JUST the Hood to Coast Relay. The Portland to Coast and High School Challenge were added later. With more and more teams it got harder to get in and this last round, it took three attempts to secure a place. The nature of the race has changed too, from what might have been somewhat of a rolling party to something fairly tightly scripted. What hasn’t changed is the attitude of fun on the run. A big part of the fun for me is the planning.

Ready to Start Hood to Coast - 1989

Ready to Start Hood to Coast – 1989

Back in 1989 I ran Leg #1 and it is the fastest sustained pace I’ve ever run over a distance (about 5.5 miles). It was glorious and I bask in the memory of it. Now, I have fun with trying to get all the team members into the best leg set for both them and the team. It is getting to be time to start doing that, even if the relay is still many months away. Oh yeah!  Hours of Fun! Oh, and it looks a lot like I’ll be giving myself Leg #1 again. No, I’m not trying to relive past glory. If you don’t mind running steep, sustained downhill (the actual Leg One) then it is the right place for the oldest, slowest runner on the team. Funny enough, although the post-Portland Leg #1 route has changed and was a bit longer back in 1989, I ran it then because I was one of the slowest on our team, even if I did come down that hill at a pace of 5:59/mile. That’s right. On that team, I was one of the ‘slow’ guys. We came 19th in Men’s Open, and those were the days of crack teams put together by Nike and others, using the very best from their stable of distance runners. That included such people as Alberto Salazar. Today, the ‘pointy end’ of the relay still involves amazing runners, but not quite like those days. Did I mention we came 19th in Men’s Open?

There are several other races that are fairly special to me and I’m working on the plans to get them into the schedule. Some involve travel outside Canada and that is not inexpensive these days, so we will have to see what we will have to see. Guess you might think I’m being a bit greedy considering the great line-up of special races already ‘on tap’!

So, that is it for my plans for the moment. What does your 2016 look like? Hope you are heading for as special a year as I expect to have!

THIS BLOGGER JUST BECAME A RACE AMBASSADOR FOR THE EUGENE MARATHON

01.18.2016

logoFollowers here know I decided a year or two back to try new things when the chance arises. A NEW CHANCE JUST AROSE!

One of my favourite races, the Eugene Marathon selected me to be one of their 2016 Ambassadors!

I am pretty thrilled for a bunch of reasons, but I realized that this is the “10th YEAR RUNNING and will be my FIFTH time of running either the full (3X) or half (2X as of this year). Let’s face it folks, there aren’t that many races of which any of us could say we’d done HALF!

Eugene Marathon - 2010 - Passing Hayward Field.

Eugene Marathon – 2010 – Passing Hayward Field.

This is a great job for me! I think I’ve been doing it unofficially since the first time I ran Eugene in 2010. That was a pretty big year of running for me and the Eugene Marathon was one of the highlights. It was also one of my personal best marathons. I really have two adult distance running careers. Well, maybe that should be RACING  careers. My first marathon was run in 1988 in Vancouver, but I didn’t run the second one until the Victoria Marathon of 2000. Oh yes, and there was that thing about a ruptured disk and back operation that happened between #1 and #2. On a raw time basis the first was the fastest and the second was, well, second fastest. Many of you know how I do love age grading to keep track of myself (then and now). Eugene, run in 2010, some 22 years after my first, was (and remains) my third best raw time and second best age graded (out of a total of 26 marathons – Eugene 2010 being #13). Oh yeah, and to my everlasting surprise and delight, I was THIRD in M65-69.

Still wondering why I love Eugene?  OK, well here are some other reasons.

Harry Jerome - Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC

Harry Jerome – Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC

1. Track Town USA!  I am of an age when Eugene was the epi-centre of running excellence, at least for West Coasters. I knew a number of promising runners who took their careers forward in Eugene and under the expert coaching of Bill Bowerman and his staff. The biggest name among them, I suppose, was Harry Jerome. I am not going to try to pretend Harry was a friend, but we did belong to the same track club and did train together under the same coach. I even raced him once! And hey, how many of the people you ran with over the years have a statue to commemorate their achievements?

2. Hayward Field. If Eugene is ‘Track Town’, Hayward Field must be City Hall! The Eugene Marathon FINISHES on Hayward Field! #goosebumps #Imighthavecriedabit

"Pre's Rock" - Eugene, OR

“Pre’s Rock” – Eugene, OR

3. Running in the Footsteps of Legends. The long-time ‘tag line’ for the race. Nothing could be more true! The people who have run in that stadium are truly legendary. I think the first that would pop to mind, at least for anyone my age, is ‘Pre’. Steve Prefontaine, even though his true potential probably went unrealized, ranks near the top of the list of Legends. Truth be told, the legendary performances continue to be recorded to this very day at Hayward Field, and who knows how many more will emerge in years to come.

4. A First Class Race. Never mind what was and everything included in the first three points. The Eugene Marathon (and Half) is a top quality race in its own right. The course is fast and essentially flat, with a good return on PB and BQ aspirations. Even if you aren’t looking for those outcomes, the organization is superb and volunteers as good as you will find. Post race is pretty much top shelf too.

As an official Ambassador, I can help you out with information and a special discount on registration if you are running the Half or Full Marathon. More on that later.  But, the weekend has more happening than just those two races, so if you are bringing kids or someone not quite ready for a marathon or half marathon, there are other options. On Saturday (April 30) there is the Run Track Town 5K and the “Duck Dash” (1 K) for kids.

Forerunners crew carbing it up in 2015

Forerunners crew carbing it up in 2015

Metro Vancouver and British Columbia runners seem to have a strong affinity for the Eugene Marathon. In 2015 I personally ran the half marathon, but was part of a group of 28 from the Forerunners marathon and half marathon clinics that descended on Eugene for one or other of the distances, coming away with something like 8-10 PB results, 8 BQs and 3 age group podium finishes, including one First and a total of 7 Top Ten placings. Although not there for 2015, Jeremiah (Jerry) Ziak of Forerunners North Vancouver has won the 5K (2011 in 14:46). And this is just the story for my Forerunners friends, not counting those running with Peninsula Runners as well as other clubs and clinics. I mention Peninsula in particular, because they have sent some pretty big contingents over the years and I am sure have produced some very satisfying results among their runners.

Why and How you run any race is up to you. I mentioned my 2010 result above. It was one of my best and I trained and raced with the intention of making it so. The next year I had every intention of repeating (only faster) but a late training injury put the result somewhat in the ‘pathetic’ category. I should have just said ‘not this time’, but I thought I was OK when the race started. OK to run, not to better the previous year. Wrong. But, I did finish. 2014 was a slower time but good for me at the time and age. 2015, the Eugene Half Marathon was the second of four half marathons done in a total of 15 days. To the outside observer the time was far from stellar, but for me it was just what I needed as the second step in my project to ‘moon up’ to Level Four in Half Fanatics! I also used the 2013 Eugene Marathon to scoot myself up to the Silver Level of Marathon Maniacs. I only mention these things because they are examples of the literally thousands of personal goals expressed on the road on any given race day. What will your goal be??

OK, let’s get down to basics.

Eugene Marathon puts on a great weekend. I recommend you think about making it part of your personal race calendar.

If you do feel this is for you, I have a special code that will give a discount for either the half or full marathon. Send me a Personal Message on the Facebook Page for Running in the Zone. OR, you can e-mail me at :  dan@runninginthezone.ca

The main race day is Sunday May 1, 2016. The Expo and package pick-up starts April 29 going through April 30. The Run Track Town 5K and Duck Dash are on Saturday April 30.

Registration fees and deadlines are found HERE.

Accommodation in Eugene should be booked early. Of course the Race Web Site has a page for hotels and many offer discounts. If you are of that sort of mind, Air BnB is an option to consider too.

Marathon Start - Eugene 2010

Marathon Start – Eugene 2010

The ROUTES for the marathon and half start on Agate Street just outside Hayward Field, running into South Eugene and Amazon Park, eventually looping back right past Hayward Field just around nine miles. Runners head toward the Willamette River, crossing over on the Bike Bridge around 10 miles, after which the two routes separate. with marathoners running up-river into Springfield and half marathoners heading into the ‘beginning of the end’ on the pathways on the North Side of the Willamette, from time to time quite near and even paralleling ‘Pre’s Trail’. After a foot tour of part of Springfield, marathoners follow the streets to Autzen Stadium where they too get onto paved pathways following the river. For most of the last 10 miles, runners are quite near the Willamette River, first on one side and then the other as they turn back toward the finish at Hayward Field.

Hayward Field - The Finish is Nigh

Hayward Field – The Finish is Nigh (Photo by Eugene Marathon)

Regardless of half or full marathon, everybody finishes by running along Agate toward those iconic gates that welcome everyone back to Hayward Field. If you have any kind of a ‘runner’s soul’ or sense of the history of this place, I challenge you to pass through those gates without having some kind of chill up the spine or maybe even a sudden surge of emotion, including a tear (if you are me). Everyone hits the track just about where a 200m race would start and then runs the curve and down the straight to the finish arch. If you aren’t so concentrated on the clock or finish mat that you forget, you can actually watch yourself finish on the JumboTron screen!

The courses are fast, mostly flat with just enough roll to keep your legs loose. There are two bumps that actually qualify as hills and you are done with them by about 8 miles. The race has been in the Top 15 BQ producers for some time. I suppose that should tell you something, whether you are looking for the BQ or just a good personal result.

Is Eugene the only race on May 1? Hardly. First of all, there is no running season weekend that doesn’t offer multiple options. It is the reality of the times and popularity of our sport. For Vancouver runners, the obvious situation is that this year, the BMO Vancouver Marathon is the same day. Last year that wasn’t so. I actually ran the half in both places, my 11th time for Vancouver and fourth for Eugene. I guess we just have to realize there are choices to make. This year I will be choosing the Eugene event. Others will need to make their own decisions.

For those who do pick Eugene, I will really look forward to greeting you at the Expo and Package Pick-Up. That is part of my job as Race Ambassador, but one I love. The Expo of any Marathon is one of my favourite places to be, so you shouldn’t have much trouble finding me! For all my Vancouver area running friends please feel free to look me up and chat about the Eugene Marathon      “10 Years Running

So whaddaya say?  See you in Eugene in May!?

 

 

IS IT REALLY JUST A MONTH TO THE “FIRST HALF”?

01.13.2016
pacific road runners - bright blue

A Well Recognized Logo!

The short answer is YES.

People who know me, this blog and the race, also know this post was to be anticipated. Unlike some races I am known to love and promote unofficially, The “First Half” Half Marathon sold out months ago. Registration will not be impacted by even one runner through the words of this blog. One thing that might is VOLUNTEERS. Unlike most races of its size these days (over 2000 finishers), this is still a 100% club organized and volunteer delivered event, supported by super generous partners such as Forerunners (from day one) and Mizuno (now with the race for some eight years). Excess proceeds from the race go to Variety – The Children’s Charity and now total well in excess of $650,000!

Pre-race crowd FHHM2014

Pre-race crowd FHHM2014

For the first 20 years, members of Pacific Road Runners (“the Club”) were not allowed to run the First Half. We all had to be the core of the volunteer brigade. It did create a bit of a tension in that some really good local runners were prevented from running what is arguably Vancouver’s best half marathon. Oh, don’t get me wrong, there are some fine races here, but the First Half is still the only half marathon that sells out over 2000 spots in 24 hours or less. I see that as a direct vote by runners. Some might argue that having been Race Director for several years and stage MC ever since, that I could be biased. Could be.

Anyway, it just happened that when I took over RD duties, it was coming up on the 20th Anniversary of the race. I decided an experiment was in order and the Race Committee agreed. On a one and done special deal, we would let five PRR members run (chosen by lottery) as long as they got their volunteer hours in before or after the race. Well, long story short, it worked just fine and we did not have to invoke the ‘special circumstance’ argument to return to the old policy. A small number of club members now get to run each year. A big plus is that PRR gets a runner’s eye view of why the event is held so high in the collective opinion of the running community and to keep a direct eye on any issues on course.

Normally, this post is all about what a great race it is shaping up to be and how hard everyone works and wishing runners well. All that still stands, but this time I have something very major and personal to announce. For the first time ever, maybe the ONLY time, I will be running the First Half.

For the weather, this is kind of what I had in mind for race day.

For the weather, this is kind of what I had in mind for race day.

I will put down my microphone and lace up my running shoes and find out first hand, just what it is all about. I am hoping that the running gods will favour me with one of those great running days for this experience. My argument to the current RD was basically that I wanted to do the race (please and pretty please) while I am still able. Not to be morbid, but I just had my 71st birthday and at that age your next injury might just be the last. I am very excited to have this opportunity and intend to take full advantage the experience!

Forerunners Pace Group Leaders at Eugene Marathon 2015

Forerunners Pace Group Leaders at Eugene Marathon 2015

I continue as a pace group leader at the Forerunners Saturday First Half clinic, but instead of telling tales of the event to those who will be running, I am now sharing my own excitement at being ONE OF THEM. While I’ve never run the race, I’ve run almost every part of the course at one time or another. The difference now is that I am not just giving advice to the pace group runners, I am making my own plans and strategies on how to approach each segment.

There are probably only two ways for me to run this race. One would be to just go really easy and take a couple of photographs (if weather is as spectacular is it has sometimes been), talk to volunteers and other runners and just make it a celebration. The other is to honour this race that has hosted so many of Canada’s top distance runners over the years, and do the very best I can. That means training well and running the race for time. Guess which one I will be doing! I’ll save the celebratory run for if I ever manage to BQ.

Now don’t get the wrong idea when I say I will ‘run for time’. Nobody at the pointy end of the race has anything to worry about, probably not even the better runners in my own age group, for that matter. Although I am thrilled to get a podium place when I can, I have mostly run against myself throughout my racing years. So, when I say I will run for time, it will just be the best time I can produce. Only I will know for sure how successfully I will pull that off. Whatever, I do intend to take this race as seriously as any race I’ve done in a long time.

Dylan Wykes (yellow and black) FHHM 2015 winner and event record holder.

Dylan Wykes (yellow and black) FHHM 2015 winner and event record holder.

I will be writing about the race again, nearer to the event. While I am a great proponent for running for your own reasons and to your own standards, I also have a deep love and appreciation of excellence. So, once we know who the top prospects will be, I will be talking about that a bit. This year being an Olympic year and a couple of our better runners and event winners not having yet qualified for the marathon, there may be some race strategy determining who will run and how fast. More on that when we get closer. As a teaser though, here is a list of former First Half winners. For the men: Peter Butler (won the very first First Half), Carey Nelson, Colin Dignum (2X), Phil Ellis (2X), Norm Tinkham (2X), Art Boileau (3X), Bruce Deacon (5X and record holder 1992 – 2007), Ryan Hayden (2X and record 2007), Rob Watson (2X) and Dylan Wykes (3X and current First Half record holder at 1:04:21, set in 2012).

Dayna Pidhoresky hits the tape for the 2015 Win.

Dayna Pidhoresky hits the tape for the 2015 Win.

On the women’s side: Isabelle Dittberner (won the first First Half and again in 1993), Lisa Harvey (4X), Tina Connelly (3X and event record holder at 1:12:47, set in 2004), Natasha Wodak (2X), Lucy Smith (2X) plus several notable one time winners including Ellie Greenwood, Leah Pells and Sylviane Puntous. For those who might remember, the Puntous twins were world class Triathletes, but also very good runners. They were famous for finishing One-Two and the 1991 First Half was no exception with Sylviane first at 1:15:08 and Patricia second in 1:15:13. The family that runs together…..

One should never get the impression that these wins were the complete record for these athletes. I only listed the wins, but many of these fine runners recorded other podium finishes as well and some went on to win the Masters division. And, the book is still open on the current crop of elites as to how many more First Half wins and podium places they will record.

BJ (Betty Jean) McHugh heads back through the Start and on to the Seawall

BJ (Betty Jean) McHugh heads back through the Start and on to the Seawall

The event has also been graced by the presence of some amazing older athletes, first among them being BJ (Betty Jean) McHugh, a regular at the First Half and an inspiration to all. According to the records posted at the First Half web site, BJ holds the age group records for W60-64 through W80+. The times range from 1:39:40 for W60-64 to 2:07:07 for W80+ (by my calculation, done when she was 82). Another runner of note is Herb Phillips who posted a record time of 1:23:19 for M65-69. I almost hesitate on mentioning these few people because it leaves out so many other superb athletes.

Everybody must now go to the Start!

Everybody must now go to the Start!

I would be remiss in not mentioning that a huge number of the less noteworthy runners out there are doing their own amazing races. I will tell just one story here but think it sums things up and because it was personal and moving for me. I guess it is also a great example of why we all need to give back to the sport we love. As I usually do when being stage MC, last year, after making the final announcement that the race was about to start, I went out to actually watch the start of the race. My usual spot is at Pacific and Davie, about 200m down-course from the starting line. You can get some great photographs from that point, and for no extra cost, if you just wait a few minutes, everybody comes right back past that location after the initial approximately one mile loop around BC Place. Because things start to string out a bit, it is also a great place to spot people you know.

Random mid-pack photo from around the time the following happened. FHHM 2015

Random mid-pack photo from around the time the following happened. FHHM 2015

I was standing there cheering and photographing and chatting with Karen and Peter Butler from Forerunners and my co-MC, Anjulie Latta (who actually has a personal link to what now follows).  The elites had passed by as well as a good many strong runners, when all of a sudden a young woman dashed over to me yelling as she came, “Are you Dan??” Having no time to think of why I might deny it, I said “YES”. She proceeded to give me a big hug and thank me profusely for getting her where she was (running the First Half). So, here is the deal. Several years before I had been her Sun Run InTraining Clinic Coordinator and had helped her get started on the road to running. Anjulie, as it happens, was the Area Coordinator at the time and thereby, my ‘boss’. The conversation was brief as you might imagine, but this young woman told me she had done every Sun Run since that first clinic and some 11 half marathons to boot!  Then, she was gone. The whole thing took just a few seconds, but it was very emotional for me and apparently for her because it was important enough for her to run off course to thank me. It made me realize that contributing what you can to assist others can have an impact far beyond anything you might imagine. No, not every time and not for everyone, but often enough and to a level most of us would never understand. I cried a little.

And for all of this, and because so many work so hard to put on this race, I just have to give it my very best come February 14, 2016!

2015 – 2016: The Year that WAS and the Year that is yet TO BE

12.31.2015
Nothing says the running year is done like a trip to the Reggae Marathon!

Nothing says the running year is done like a trip to the Reggae Marathon!

Here we are on the cusp of yet another New Year. That means we are also on the very tail-end of the last one. Personally, the last year has been a strange, yet good one. Personal times surely got slower, but achievements were often and many were new! First time running with my grandson, Charlie, first time running a couple of races that have been around for a long time yet never on my schedule, first time running back to back half marathons (actually one was 25K), first time to score a significant number of age group podiums (5/10 races). I joined Half Fanatics and ‘mooned up’ to Level 4 (of 10). I managed to run a marathon at age 70 and attended the Reggae Marathon for the fifth year running. At the same time, I found it hard to get as much running in as normal. The last number of years, my annual running/racing total has been around 1000 Miles. This year I just crept over 1000km. As readers here know, that was partly to do with having cataract surgery on both eyes which is still amazing to me every day, but took me out for six weeks of NO running and not even any alternate training. Lost another three weeks to the worst cold/flu I think I’ve ever had. So, I guess if you prorate my 1000K plus by the nine weeks, it comes to around 1300km. Still not 1600km, but not as bad as the simple number sounds (to me, anyway).

Dylan Wykes (yellow and black) pulling the pack at FHHM 2015

Dylan Wykes (yellow and black) pulling the pack at FHHM 2015

The year in general saw some amazing things in terms of World Championships and Pan Am Games, especially in the sprints with Usain Bolt producing jaw-dropping results and our own Andre De Grasse serving notice that he is here to be seen and heard. At the distances I concentrate on, we saw Canadian marathoners putting themselves in line for a trip to RIO in 2016, and one of those, Reid Coolsaet, inching ever closer to the Canadian marathon record of Jerome Drayton. Eric Gillis has scored a qualifying time too and a couple of others are biding their time for the right race to give them a birth there too. Watching with suspense to see how Dylan Wykes and Rob Watson will do in the coming few months. There is a fine crop of ‘fast women’ too , including Lanni Marchant and Krista Duchene, and some are even having to make decisions as to which distance (if not both) they should run.

Ellie Greenwood wins Comrades 2014

Ellie Greenwood wins Comrades 2014

It is also going to be fun to see if Ellie Greenwood, running healthy and with no altercations with autos to mess up her training, is going to be able go back to Comrades and show them exactly of what she is made.

A sad part of the year was seeing another major doping scandal arise and knowing somehow that it is surely NOT going to be the last. Another part of the past year and maybe past couple of years, is what seems to be a down-trend in race participants in individual timed races in Canada. That will be the subject of a blog early in 2016 after I’m done analyzing data I’ve been given.

2016, being an Olympic Year, Rio 2016 is going to bring lots of thrills, chills and spills, starting with the mad dash to qualify for those who have not yet done so. The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon will add another $1000 to the bonus for any Canadian who can break Drayton’s record and the event coming after the Olympics may produce some all-out efforts since nobody has anything to risk by going for it. Forty years that record has stood. Seems like it would be kind of poetic for someone to nail it on the 40th. I have this theory that once someone finally breaks through, the record will drop significantly. We’ll see.

My own 2016 is a work in progress.

Rob Watson - Wins 2014 First Half

Rob Watson – Wins 2014 First Half

First up will be running the First Half Half Marathon. When I joined Pacific Road Runners, no club member was allowed to run the race. We all volunteered. As Race Director for the 20th Anniversary Race, I used it is an opportunity to offer a (possibly one-time) chance for PRR members to run. If it didn’t work, we could just go back to the normal policy. We opened five slots on a lottery basis and made it clear that individuals still had to do significant volunteering, just not during the race. Apparently, it worked well enough that the club continues to this day to allow a select number of members to run and do their volunteering outside the time of the actual race. After several years as RD, I took up being co-MC on the stage, right up to this past year. So, I’ve never run the First Half. I asked and the current RD agreed to give me the year off from my usual duties on the stage. in 2016 and at the 27th First Half, I will get to run for the very first (and quite possibly, last) time. Guess I better make it count! Well, training began several weeks ago: looking good so far.

Tutti-Frutti, Orange Cone. Already planning for 2016?

Tutti-Frutti, Orange Cone. Already planning for 2016?

Grandson Charlie has already served notice he wants to run the Giant’s Head 5.4K race again in June. While I haven’t signed up yet (OK, nobody has), I intend to be there for ’round two’!

 

Hood to Coast Start 2012

Hood to Coast Start 2012

After three tries, I was able to get yet another team into the Hood to Coast Relay! This will be the 9th time for me. The first was 1987, so I’ve been at this for a while. I already have a full team and we are currently “Canucks to the Coast“. We may review the name a bit closer to the race, but it served well in 2013 and almost half the team is the same, so……………………….Canucks to the Coast it may well be.

 

We have been talking of a major family running event for a time now and it is looking a lot like the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon (etc.) is going to be it. The “etc.” is important because I suspect none of us is signing on for a marathon this time. It will probably be the Half and 8K options for us. Our oldest daughter is already registered for the Half and Charlie is game for the 8K. Don’t think anyone else has made a specific commitment, but the Winnipeg branch of the family already has the dates blocked in and two of the three anticipate running (one is not quite a year old as I write this and unfortunately they have a no stroller/jogger policy, so I guess Jonah will have to cheer this time). Our son lives in Victoria and says he is game at least for the 8K, maybe more, depending on how the year unfolds. A discussion between Charlie and me will probably determine whether I do the Half or 8K. That, and how I survive Hood to Coast at 71! I HAVE been collecting new experiences lately and while I’ve done Victoria Marathon 5 times and the Half Marathon 6 times, I’ve never run the 8K. Maybe this is the year. Lots of time for the uncommitted to pick a distance and sign on. Must remember to register as a Team!

Judi and me at Big Cottonwood Package Pickup.

Judi and me at Big Cottonwood Package Pickup.

That is it for strong intentions. But, there are many temptations out there. I mean, Revel has just announced a brand new downhill marathon/half in Nevada!  I put in an application to be a ‘run ambassador’ for a race that shall remain nameless for now and if accepted, that will require running either the half or full marathon. Then, I also found out the Yakima River Canyon Marathon now has a Half Marathon this time, not to mention that running/writing friends Roger Robinson and Kathrine Switzer will be there again.

And then there is the Reggae Marathon. Of course there is. After five years in a row, I’m not sure if I would go again if I can’t convince some family to join me this time though. Then, there is another running project that has been lurking out there for almost a year that may or may not happen, but if it does would more or less preclude the now annual trip to Negril, JA.

So, while 2016 may look a little ’empty’ at the moment, it is not likely to remain that way for long. I already have my brand new running log (I’m still analog when it comes to running – like to see it on paper, even if I do a lot of related record keeping electronically, too). I do like to get a run in New Year’s Day, but that may not happen with friends here and a daughter and grandson needing to get to the airport for the trip home. January 2nd is a scheduled clinic run and that is looking pretty good! For many years, the New Year fun was a symbolic indication for the year ahead. One thing I do know is that I am NOT scheduling a January flu bug! (Mind you, I didn’t schedule it this year either!)

Early Morning Beach Runners - my Favourite!

Early Morning Beach Runners – my Favourite!

As other things sort out, we will probably try to do some interesting travel and while I respect that not ALL travel has to involve racing/running (REALLY – you can travel for other reasons than races?  Who knew?), there may be a couple of things that will provide a nice combination. One of my fun ‘collections’ is places run and raced, so maybe we can find a new place to visit and for a couple of new ‘notches’ or even medals for my collection. I’m up to at least 23 countries where I’ve run and five where I’ve raced if you include ‘fun run’ kinds of races. I have a lot of potential for new places without hitting new countries though. Two of my countries are Canada and the US. I’ve raced in just three Provinces and I believe, eight States. Think I’ve run in 9/10 Provinces and a fair number more States than where I’ve raced, but there is still plenty of scope for expansion there! Guess I need to stop repeating races, but the ones I like I usually like a lot (such as the Eugene Marathon, Vancouver Marathon, Victoria Marathon and Reggae Marathon events).

I do know there will be no new moons (Half Fanatics) or stars (Marathon Maniacs) added this year, although I may add States or Provinces to the personal profiles. With TWO Stars and FOUR Moons, what would needs to be done to rise any higher just isn’t in the cards for this old slogger.

Well, it is looking pretty interesting for 2016. I hope your year ahead offers as many interesting challenges as mine already seems to hold.

Happy New Year!!!

VANCOUVER HALF TO REGGAE MARATHON 10K IN TEN EASY STEPS

12.12.2015

Ten easy steps? Who writes these ‘headlines’???

Medals representing ten races and a couple of podium finishes

Medals representing ten races and a couple of podium finishes

While this old blogger has no intention of putting the shoes in the closet until 2016, that IS where the racing flats are going. Racing is done for 2015. Training is NOT. I already have my first race of 2016 in my sights and it is one that I MUST train for as it requires all the respect I can manage: The First Half Half Marathon. It will be the first and probably only time I’ll run it, but that will be another story sometime closer to the actual event. So, what does the Title of this piece mean? Well, of the ten races run this year, the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon was the first, run on a gorgeous sunny morning in May. What a contrast that morning of May 3rd was to the year previous when rain pelted down on us at the start and then through the race (the MARATHON, no less). Nope, May 3rd was as close as you will get to perfect. I was really looking forward to that first 5K downhill that gets the Half started. It actually runs right through my old ‘hood’ and by the elementary school I attended so many decades ago. I just entered my 8th decade and was still in my first when I started Grade 3 at Edith Cavell.

Start of BMO Vancouver Half.

Start of BMO Vancouver Half.

Almost all of the first 5K has a delicious down slope. I had a plan for early 2015 and that was to ‘Level Up’ as a Half Fanatic. I joined Marathon Maniacs back in 2013 but decided I’d also join the Half Fanatics in 2015. Interestingly, notwithstanding that I’d run a lot of half marathons in my time, I had not put enough of them close enough together to qualify as a Fanatic. You can’t use marathons as qualifiers even though you can use races from actual half marathons right up to anything short of a marathon and on roads or trails as you please. I had seen a natural opportunity, starting with Vancouver, to take myself from the basic qualifying level (Neptune) to Level Four (Jupiter). Details will follow, but the plan involved running four halfs or better in a total of 15 days. I mention this because you must clearly pace yourself and not get too excited in any given race. I suppose running the first 5K of Vancouver pretty much as hard as my hairy old legs would go, would not actually qualify as ‘pacing myself’. Still, it was an intentional decision. I knew very well that I would have to back off or pay dearly, if not that day, then surely sometime in the two weeks to follow. I have to say it was fun while it lasted though and was my fastest 5K (even if it was a split) since 2010.

Forerunners gang at Eugene Marathon

Forerunners gang at Eugene Marathon

The next of the four races was the Eugene Half Marathon on May 10. It was another pretty nice racing day, although maybe just a touch warmer than previous Eugene Marathons I’ve experienced. What made this one fabulous, apart from the fact that it is one top notch racing event, was that something like 28 of my Forerunners Clinic friends had chosen to do this one. We had a ball meeting up and comparing notes. Results were spectacular for the group with multiple PB and BQ performances. Of course my result was a tad bit slower, being second of the four races I was to run to achieve my Jupiter status.

Getting ready for the Sage Rat Half

Getting ready for the Sage Rat Half

The next week I somehow found a small race weekend in/near Prosser, WA. Let me say if you want a fun and family oriented weekend racing event, the Sage Rat Run is something you will want to look at. I had chosen the Sage Rat Half Marathon for Saturday, May 16 and the Dirty Rat 25K on Sunday, May 17. And, yes it was my first back to back races of such distance. Some felt it might be a first sign of senility, but I assure that on Sunday I was able to remember pretty much every step of the half marathon done the day before! Especially as I made my way up the 1,000ft climb that begins the Dirty Rat 25K. Until I reached the plateau at the top of that climb, I was probably first among those questioning my own soundness of mind (and body).

When all, and I do mean ALL, was said and done, I had run four half marathons (or better) in 15 days and had attained my Half Fanatic Level Four status. And, I suppose in an attempt to prove that I haven’t totally ‘lost it’, I have no intention of pushing to a higher level in either Marathon Maniacs or Half Fanatics. Really, I don’t!

Celebrating our first race done together!

Celebrating our first race done together!

I took a well-deserved rest until early June, when I ran a true career highlight race – the Giant’s Head Run. It is a quirky little race, being not 5K, but rather 5.4K. It was one of (if not THE) first races I ever did, way back around 1984 or 1985 when we lived in Summerland, BC, where the Giant’s Head Run has taken place for many years. Although the course has not really changed, it seems the distance has, or at least got more accurately measured. Whatever, the point was I ran it with our grandson, Charlie. It was our first race together, but hopefully not our last. Charlie says we are doing it again in 2016, so who am I to argue? The complete story can be seen HERE. That was June 6th.

2015 was to be ‘The Year of the Half’ and a race I have done at least six or seven times is at the end of June, the Canada Running Series, Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon. Obviously, I think it is a good race to run, but this time decided to change it up a bit (being still a little drained from the exploits of early May) so opted for the 5K event instead. In hind-sight, my decision was brilliant. It was one very warm day! Running 5K looked like a very sound decision, and it was kind of fun. With all my longer distance racing goals of the last couple of years, running a 5K was truly something different.

Judi and me at Big Cottonwood Package Pickup.

Judi and me at Big Cottonwood Package Pickup.

At the end of June, I had my second cataract surgery, requiring three weeks of no sweat life, literally – NO sweating allowed. That was followed by some travel, complete with challenges for running, although I got a fair few in despite other demands on time and strange territory. All of this notwithstanding, my surgery date was moved up 3-4 weeks re the original plan. We had booked in for the Revel Big Cottonwood Half Marathon in early September. Both my wife, Judi, and I were going to do the Half. She is an avid walker and Big Cottonwood has a time structure that welcomes walkers. I felt that the downhill nature of this course was an opportunity to book a pretty nice half time. HOWEVER. With the change in surgery date and changes to the course that seemed to make it easier for someone who loves running down, I was seduced into running the marathon (again). There was just enough time to train up, even if it would be to minimal readiness. I couldn’t pass the chance and knew I was taking a chance. I kind of lost the bet in the end, but don’t regret the decision a bit. What the heck, I can at least say I ran a marathon at age 70!

A really WET turkey, trotting!

A really WET turkey, trotting!

While the Goodlife Victoria Marathon (weekend) has been a family ‘go to’ race for many years, I would have been all alone this time. I realized that I had an opportunity to run two races I had never done before and to add a couple of 10Ks to the list for 2015. First up was the Granville Island Turkey Trot. The main reason I’d never done it, despite the fact that we lived right beside Granville Island for a bunch of years, was that we were always in Victoria for either the half or full marathon the day before. Apart from the fact that I have seldom raced in such wet conditions, the race itself was great fun and I got to see a lot of people I hadn’t seen for some time.

The next ‘new’ race was the James Cunningham Seawall 10K. For no particular reason, I had never done that race. Of course, one reason was that while it has been going for decades, we didn’t live in or near Vancouver for a good part of that time. Although for most of its life it was not a 10K, upon being amalgamated into the Rock ‘n’ Roll series, it was tweaked up to a full 10K distance in 2014. The first year it was run in tandem with the Oasis Vancouver Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon (I ran the inaugural Half), but in 2015 it was moved out to Saturday thus allowing anyone who wanted to do so, to run both. My May experience of completing the Rat Deux being the back to back event for 2015, I passed on the opportunity. That was the last weekend of October and let me just say that it was truly fun to race the full Seawall, something I’ve never done, even though I’ve run many races that use part of it. While it was a wee bit cool at the start, it was another great running day, and for the second time in 2015 I got to do a race with Judi, who walked.

Dawn breaking over Negril and the Reggae Marathon course.

Dawn breaking over Negril and the Reggae Marathon course.

That brought me down to my final event of the year, the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K. It is a long story with many facets to explain the whys and wherefores of it, but I am on a five year streak of doing that race. Negril, JA calls itself the Capital of Casual, and that whole vibe is surely part of it. So are the friends made and maintained through the Reggae Marathon. One thing I know for sure, even though the course is pancake flat, you don’t run it for time. Even if it does start in the relatively cool pre-dawn, it is still 23C up to 26C (this year) at the start. But, time is never what it is about for most people and the race continues to grow, reaching some 2300 registrants in 2015.

My 2015 experience at Reggae Marathon, as most call it regardless of actual distance run (- in my case this year, 10K) was once again right at the top of the heap of races for me. I really wanted to have a podium finish, being the young guy in my new M70-74 age group and was thrilled to come second, and NO, not second out of two! It appears that six started and at least five finished. Except that it was just a very personal ‘completion’ sort of goal, finishing on the podium was really neither here nor there in the great scheme of things, but I was still thrilled to be able to do it.

So, that was it for 2015. Ten races in all, each with a different purpose and pretty much every one of them with a deeper personal meaning than just another race to add to the total. At my age it is nice, maybe even important, to be running for some reason other than to add to the statistics. Oh, anybody who knows me or follows this blog will be well aware that I AM all about the stats, in terms of keeping track. That said, I don’t run races FOR the stats.

I am really not sure where I stand on total races run, but the number TWO HUNDRED is a reasonable estimate. Because I ran a lot of my early races in the mid-80s, I am fairly sure I’ve lost track of a few and have no way to go back and check. Never throwing anything away, I tend to have a pretty good idea how many I did from old logs and race results I still have, but it is really more of a minimum. Depending on how you score multi-leg relays, I am either just at around 200 races or well over and into the 220-225 area. The total itself doesn’t matter, other than maybe I’d like to celebrate a little when I go through 200 events, but it is a good many races and because I count 26 full marathons, one 50K ultra and at least 36 half marathons among the total, it is a considerable distance raced – some 1900km in those events alone. There are lots of 5Ks, 8Ks and 10Ks in there too, but they don’t add up nearly as fast! Whatever, let’s just say my races have covered a bit of distance over those many years.

Finishing the "Dirty Rat 25K" and doing my best "Bolt"

Finishing the “Dirty Rat 25K” and doing my best “Bolt”

Way back when I was middle-aged and just getting started in all this, and even though my PB times were fairly respectable, I was running with a bad crowd (fast) and never seemed to finish high up in my age group. I hatched a plot back then to just keep running until everybody else called it quits! I think it is starting to pay off! In 2015 I completed 10 races. Out of those ten, I managed five podium finishes with one first, three seconds and a third. Am I proud of coming first out of one at the Dirty Rat 25K? You bet! I was the one guy had the guts to get out and do it, and especially proud of the back to back, of which it was part. There were actually a couple of other races where I was fourth or fifth that just may have been superior results in that the field was considerable in size. Clearly, my times aren’t great, but I’m out there doing it and it is just plain fun to collect something more than the finisher medal from time to time.

Let’s face it, if racing isn’t fun, you should find a new hobby!

ON FRIDAY IT ALL GETS REAL! REGGAE, REGGAE

12.05.2015
Rise up in the mornin'

Rise up in the mornin’

I arrived Wednesday afternoon in Negril and enjoyed a fairly quiet day on Thursday. Early morning run to get acclimatized (as if you can actually do that in two days). Better than nothing and good fun running the brand new tiled walk that runs from the Negril Round-About right out to where package pick-up and the pasta party happen, and just short of the start/finish venue at Long Bay Beach Park. Checked out the pick-up and got my registration stuff. Easy walk home and a few chats with runners not quite sure where they were headed.

Reggae Runnerz in the house at Rondel Village!

Reggae Runnerz in the house at Rondel Village!

By Thursday evening the hordes of Reggae runners, make that “Reggae Runnerz” had showed up. So had “That Runnin’ Guy” and if I wasn’t sure before, it all started to get real. You know you are at a major running event, when everyone around you also seems to be part of that event. That sure is how it was at Rondel Village today. Big happy buzz in the air!

Registration and Package Pick-Up and Chris

Registration and Package Pick-Up and Chris

Friday started with a run into Negril Town (our traditional shake-out route), followed by a traditional ackee and saltfish breakfast and a little beach time before heading to the race HQ and the fun. So many eager runners, a lot who were first time participants but an amazing number of returnees, some for several years running. Would be an interesting stat to know how many people are returnees, how many are running a ‘streak’ and how many new. As an old RD, I’m betting the number of returnees and streakers is inordinately high, especially for a destination race. Organizers are already sharing that some 35 countries are represented in the registration, but that number is more than a few days old, so maybe by tomorrow it will push 40.

Art and Food - carved watermelon

Art and Food – carved watermelon

Pasta Anyone??

Pasta Anyone??

As always, pasta and all the stuff that goes with it is the feature of Friday evening. That and the steel band and reggae music and just a lot of camaraderie and catching up with old friends. As I’ve said before, I have made a bunch of friends who, while we keep in touch via social media and such, only see each other on this weekend! While the Red Stripe is surely there, most people hold back, knowing that in a good deal less

Reggae Marathoners enjoy the pasta party.

Reggae Marathoners enjoy the pasta party.

than 12 hours they will be running the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon (or) 10K. In other words, before the sun rises, we are all going to be well into our run. In truth, a good many will be finished. The quicker 10K participants will finish before dawn begins to colour the sky. Some of us usually wind up breaking away from the party for the media briefing. Yes, Running in the Zone is media! So many great stats put before us tonight including a new record number of runners (over 2300) with a large international representation. Final numbers will be posted by the official Reggae Marathon outlets.

The original Reggae Marathon banner!

The original Reggae Marathon banner!

One fun item tonight was the handing over of the original race banner to the Jamdammers Running Club that is the heart and soul of the event. Like many, I get well prepared the night before the race and lay things out for the morning. Don’t want to forget anything at the early hour we all will rise.

Represent

Ready to “Represent”

Note ‘Flat Dan’ laid out and ready to race! I personally hope to finish my 10K somewhere in the 1:05 to 1:10 range (originally thought 1:05 but this year is promising to be a bit warmer and a bit more humid than usual, so maybe 1:10 is more realistic). Whatever, I should finish just in time to turn around and watch the winner of the half marathon cross the line. Either that, or get passed just before my own finish! It still will not have come official sunrise at that time! As the sun rises, Long Bay Beach Park will come alive with live reggae music and happy race finishers, and that will continue for several hours as the 10K folk finish up, the half marathoners really start to finish in numbers and the marathon winners start rolling through.

AND, LET THE REGGAE MARATHON WEEKEND BEGIN!

12.03.2015

Today is the first day of the rest………………..of the weekend!

Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K

Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K

Already bedded down at Rondel Village (my home away from home for the last four years on Reggae Marathon weekend). Been out for a run to get used to heat and humidity. Nothing so very unusual for here, but certainly unusual for this temperately inclined boy from Canada! Been over to get my media credentials and race bib/package. Already talked to all kinds of people here to run.

Early Morning Beach Runners - Negril, JA

Early Morning Beach Runners – Negril, JA

Several from US (Minnesota, Georgia, New York), Germany and Denmark. I think I even convinced a guest at the hotel that he could surely do the 10K, even if it is at walk pace. Said he was going to go over and register. C’mon Bob! You can do it!!

The gathering of the ‘clan’, that is the folks joining in our own private little competition known as the Reggae Runners Half Marathon Challenge, has begun. Expecting Chris Morales anytime now (aka That Runnin’ Guy and the official RM Blogger). Ran into Navin Sadarangani at the airport in Toronto and took the same flight with him to Jamaica. I know Larry Savitch is here as is Deb Thomas who has become the regular winner of the challenge. Assorted others are coming in too, but that is enough for now. There WILL be more later.

Entrance to Pick-up and Pasta Venue (Couples Swept Away)

Entrance to Pick-up and Pasta Venue (Couples Swept Away)

Package pick-up is already rolling and the pasta party venue is starting to take shape. It looks like the 15th Reggae Marathon is just about ready to roll. Tomorrow is more package pick-up and pasta before the big race on Saturday morning. I wore my shirt from 2011 (the first of my string of Reggae Marathons) and got lots of comments form people along the beach and road and more than a few “respec mon’ from the locals who know what it means.

Bolting! - Apparently, he took part in the school 10K Challenge

Bolting! – Apparently, he took part in the school 10K Challenge

Getting Pasta Stations ready for Friday Night.

Getting Pasta Stations ready for Friday Night.

Had to take the tradition BOLT pose and check out how the pasta tents were coming along. Looking good to me!

The 2015 Reggae Marathon is already the 15th Annual.  Looking for lots of fun and lots of people! Frano (race director) says most ever. Ya mon!

REALLY! WHAT IS THE BEST I CAN DO?

11.30.2015
The Best I can Do? This was the night I ran the fastest I've ever run: 5:59/mile for 6 miles!

The Best I can Do? This was the night I ran the fastest I’ve ever run: 5:59/mile for 6 miles!

Interesting title, and like more than a few, inspired by something I saw on social media. So many times we talk about just wanting to run the best we are able. I know I say (and believe) that is my core goal and philosophy. As I have been writing and editing on the go, a supplemental question popped into my mind. Who cares? Well, I can deal with that one straight off: ME. I’m the only one who cares about what I do and how I do it, as it should be.

So, what does ‘the best I can do’ really mean? What does it mean to all those other people who also say it?

I ask that because I am a member of both Marathon Maniacs and Half Fanatics. The specific comment that got me started was a reply to someone worrying about how fast they were going in a marathon. The reply was along the lines of “well maybe right now, the best you CAN do is six hours”. Click! The light went on and I actually jotted this title down so I wouldn’t forget about it. That was a few days ago, but here I am ready to explore this.

I guess the first thing to say is that everything is relative. EVERYTHING!

I am very privileged to know a number of former and current elite runners. If you want to see excellence these are people of great note. Some of these people wrote for Running in the Zone, the book! Canadian distance runners are not at the moment, as fast as the best of the best. However, I am pretty certain that they are doing the best they can do. On any given day, even their ‘bests’ are not necessarily of the PB kind. That is racing. They ARE doing their best on that day under the conditions of the day and course, relative to the competition and relative to their physical condition (healthy/sick, a bit injured, in a build-up phase, etc.)

Finishing up my Marathon PB (1988)

Finishing up my Marathon PB (1988)

Naturally, I got thinking about myself and my own racing (and necessarily, training). What I do now on a best effort looks pretty lame compared to what I did at my peak, even to my best of five years ago. My best in 2015 is not, I feel, the actual best I could do under different circumstances, age notwithstanding. However, when you consider everything else in my life this year, maybe my race efforts have been my best under the circumstances. The funny thing is that I’ve had more podium finishes this year than ever before, but that has a lot to do with my ever advancing age and a new category. In 2015, I was the ‘young guy’ in M70-74. I also insist that after about 60, OK maybe 65, each year is more like dog years than human years. So, as a 70 year-old in that category, I am waaaaay ‘younger’ than some guy who is 74. Whatever, it has been fun, but I don’t kid myself that I’m getting better!

One of the things we all have to watch is comparing our ‘last race’ to our best ever. If your best ever was the race before last, well then, OK. However, if as is the case with me, your true best was some 27 years ago or so (see photo to the left), you are just silly to do anything but bask in the memory and let it go. That covers age, but there are a good many other factors that influence any given performance and whether or not you may have been doing the best you could in any given race. If you didn’t have to race until everything was just perfect, it might be easier to score PBs, but sadly, they insist on staging races on a given date, whatever the conditions and whether you or I are ‘ready’ or not.

And, the first race IS done!

And, the first race IS done!

If you will indulge me talking about myself for a bit, I want to use my last year as an example of how your ‘best’ fluctuates according to the conditions and situations. I suppose of the 10 races (actually, still have one of those 10 left to do) I did run one at someone else’s pace. That was my wonderful first race with my eight year-old (at the time) grandson. He even gave props to the old geezer when he told one of his friends that he ‘couldn’t have beaten me if he tried’. Trust me, that isn’t going to last much longer! We have already agreed to run the same race again in 2016. I imagine we might run our best efforts at just about the same pace, and then it will be done. Anytime after that, Charlie will have to wait for me.

So, what about 2015 and my string of races where I will claim I did do my ‘best’, even if the results don’t much look like it, taken in isolation?

Medals from the races that made me a Level 4 Fanatic

Medals from the races that made me a Level 4 Fanatic

The year started with a Half Fanatic goal to ‘moon up’ from the base level of ONE moon (Neptune) to FOUR moons (Jupiter). In both Marathon Maniacs and Half Fanatics, it is volume that counts not pace. All level criteria are based on X races in Y days or months. You can go as fast or slow as you want or are able. In my case, I selected four half marathons (actually, the last one was a 25K trail event) completed in 15 days. Two of them were back to back (Saturday for the Half and Sunday for the 25K). The races were BMO Vancouver (Half) Marathon, Eugene Half Marathon, Sage Rat Half Marathon and Dirty Rat 25K. First race was Vancouver on May 3 and the fourth was the Dirty Rat 25K on May 17.  I am pretty sure that anybody setting out to race four half marathons in that short a time would need to adjust pace a little. I know that anybody my age would!

Adjust I did. Oh, and because I knew that these four races had to be done with a little less aggression than normal, I had to be ready to accept that even the first result, would be much slower than the last half I had done only a few months before, in late 2014. Uuuumm, and then there was the ever so tempting first 5K, deliciously downhill, at the Vancouver Half. I intentionally raced for my split time (knowing full well that I would pay for it later, which I DID). Something that I did find interesting was that the first three actual half marathons were a week apart in each case and in each case I lost almost exactly four minutes on the previous race. We won’t count the 25K as it was longer and there was a 1000ft vertical in the first couple of miles on that one. Talk about apples and oranges!

In any case, I actually did a calculated ‘best’ effort in each race even if the times taken alone for each event would hardly look like it. Circumstances and a longer term goal.

2013 Marathons and Ultra for Silver Level Maniac Status

2013 Marathons and Ultra for Silver Level Maniac Status

I could go back to 2013 too, when I decided that the base level for Marathon Maniacs (one star or Bronze) was not quite enough and set my goals to run six marathons in six months to move up to two stars or Silver. (FWIW there are ten levels in both Maniac and Fanatic criteria.) In case you might be wondering, I am now done with seeking higher levels in either group, but I am officially a Double Agent, so there’s that. The point is that running six marathons (one was a 50K) in that period of time, again meant that each was a little compromised to the greater goal.

Moving on, later in June of 2015 I decided it was time to see how a shorter distance might work and ran the 5K associated with the Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon. I felt I had recovered from the half marathon crusade and could push my 5K effort. I feel I did give it everything I could, but it was a rather warm day. The time was decent but not as fast as it might have been in more ideal conditions. Circumstances.

Big Cottonwood Marathon

Big Cottonwood Marathon

Oh, and just to make the year interesting, I had two bouts of eye surgery to remove cataracts, a fabulous thing, but each time it cost me three weeks of total inactivity where it came to training. In September I decided to get back to racing and that took the form of the Big Cottonwood Marathon. Now, the event had actually been booked way early in the year, but at half marathon distance. I do love me a downhill course and the Big Cottonwood Half just rolls down, the whole way. Everything was fine until my eye surgery got moved up by three or four weeks. All of a sudden, I had (minimal) time to train for the marathon. AND, they took some four (difficult) miles or so out of the lower part of the marathon course and pushed it about 1500ft further up the mountain! I won’t go into more detail. If you really want to hear more, you can look HERE. Anyway, I decided that since the race was so far away (Utah) and I probably wouldn’t be doing it again, I would go for the full marathon and accept whatever happened. I knew I could have an amazing half marathon result but wanted a really special marathon finish in this year of being 70. Didn’t happen. Combination of circumstances, conditions and situation, but I DID do my best and don’t regret the last minute switch. I knew I was taking a chance on the outcome. My actual half split was 2:21:13 and if I teased out my best 21.1K (because the official time includes about 5 minutes of porto-potty stop time), it turns out to be about 2:15, but run within the context of a marathon, i.e. with some constraint. In other words, my original plan for a good half was definitely justified and speculatively might have been around 2:10 or so. We’ll never know. I made a different decision, and that is part of this whole thing, too. We all make decisions from time to time, to run one race vs another, to run in less than ideal conditions, to run without optimal training, or with too many races already in our legs.

A little damp it was, this day!

A little damp it was, this day!

Well then I turned my sights to a couple of 10K races I’d never done before, starting with the Granville Island Turkey Trot. This one was OK for time (would have liked a minute or two faster) but there was that marathon done less than a month previous and the rain. The RAIN!!! I don’t know that I’ve ever been much wetter in a race. So, circumstances and conditions, and yet the best I could do on the day.

And, I’m not making excuses. I’m trying to point out that hitting that sweet spot of training, course and race conditions isn’t all that easy to manage. Still, I can honestly say I did my best in each event, and if you can say that, you can be satisfied with your result.

Enough of that, or at least, enough about me.

Going back to the on-line comment about the six hour marathoner (a ‘she’ as I recall), I don’t know much more about her circumstances or how she came to the race in terms of previous exertions (she is a Marathon Maniac) or even what her goal was. She could have been injured or just coming back from something (no such info was included). However the fellow who commented that maybe it was her best on that day hit it right on the head, at least from a philosophical point of view.

Lead Women - Boston Marathon 2009 - Being Fierce

Lead Women – Boston Marathon 2009 – Being Fierce

Sometimes the focus, moving now to the competitive racer (I was going to say ‘elite’ but it applies more broadly), is on winning. Time is something we all focus on in judging our results, but when you are competitive, winning can often be more important. When you find yourself in a relatively balanced field, in a race you want to win, race strategy is more important than time. Your ‘best’ becomes something else and judged on a different scale. As I noted earlier, my podium placements this year have been quite fun, but as a mid to back of pack runner, seldom do I know who I am actually racing. Most often I just have to lay down my best and let it be what it is. A few times over the years I have either known (or thought I did) who the competition was and could race head to head. Those races were kind of fun! The easiest example to understand the difference between PB or even record time and going for the win, is something like a runner chasing Olympic Gold or winning the Boston Marathon.  The WIN is everything. Running fast (relative term) is secondary. A heroic effort that leaves you second or even right out of the ‘money’ means nothing. Make no mistake though, strategic races do involve a best effort.

Everything is relative. At the top end we have the world elite runner. Results are pretty ‘pure’ and simple to understand. Everybody runs as hard as they can and somebody wins or sets a new World Record. What about the rest of us who will have an asterisk beside anything we do? I’m thinking of the best Masters runner. I’m thinking of Age Class winners or Single Age record holders. Raw time is not in the same class as the ‘Open’ elite runner, since we undeniably fade with time. What about an Ed Whitlock? He recorded times in his late 70s, early 80s that when age graded, rated higher than the then World Marathon Record. A friend and local runner here in Vancouver, BJ (Betty Jean) McHugh pretty much sets a new single age record every time she runs a half or full marathon. BJ just turned 88 and is gearing up to run the Honolulu Marathon in a few days. She will take more than five hours I would think, but remember how all this started? I was talking about a much younger woman wondering if her six hour marathon was OK. I’m pretty sure she was a long way shy of 88! The important thing is that BJ respects the events and trains and will turn in her best effort in Honolulu and I assure you that you can count on that regardless of what her actual time turns out to be. As I recall, last year it was 5:36. But, of course, last year she was only 87.

New York City Marathon

New York City Marathon

Some people run with disabilities. Some aren’t so very athletically made and just run for their own satisfaction. That doesn’t mean they aren’t being the best they can be. To me, that is what makes running so compelling. I don’t need to beat anyone else to know I’ve done my best. Some say you only need to ‘beat yourself’. That can be true, but when you reach my age and you are still going, you have to ask “which self would that be?”. It certainly isn’t the ‘self’ that recorded his PB marathon (OK, PB marathon, half, 10K, 5K) back when he was 43/44. Having decided to keep track of 5-year records, it probably will seldom be the ‘self’ that recorded records for the previous 5-year age grouping. It could be the self that ran the last half marathon or 10K or whatever race he did. It also isn’t totally impossible to better previous times. When I was 65 I was on a racing/training roll that saw me do my third best (raw) marathon and second best age graded. It was a stellar year because of good health and hard training and maybe, just maybe, doing the right race on the right day.

Personally, one of the main ways I keep up with a ‘better me’ is the % Performance value you get with age grading. I figure if my annual bests stay in the same range, I am doing well. This year was not great on that basis, but I don’t know if it was the circumstances described above, or just me getting older and more feeble.

I intend that next year’s racing be quite selective, so we will have to see if my performances improve or if the ‘fade’ continues. It should keep me amused, if no-one else.

 

(MY) ISLAND IN THE SUN

11.25.2015
Getting it done at the Reggae Marathon 2014

Getting it done at the Reggae Marathon 2014

I think I have been very disciplined this year when it comes to blogging about the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K. Until NOW.

I mean it is just one week until I arrive in Negril and I only have one big responsibility to take care of before going. Sadly, that one thing is the night before I leave, so no way to get it done and off my table early. Oh well, it will keep my mind occupied until I leave.

Just one of many pasta stations! Looks pretty - tastes great!

Just one of many pasta stations! Looks pretty – tastes great!

There are so many great things about the Reggae Marathon. There are the races themselves, the pasta party which still scores second to none I’ve ever attended, and then the post-race party on the beach. Then, there are all the friends I’ll see. These are people who I keep in touch with throughout the year, but NEVER see in person except in Negril. Finally, as well as first and foremost and all the time, there is just the charm of Jamaica.

Negril beach view. No worries here.

Negril beach view. No worries here.

Last year, I really needed a break and made my stay quite a bit longer than the few days it takes to go and enjoy the event. It was something like a total of 17 days in paradise, with the Reggae Marathon sandwiched pretty much in the middle. It was just what the Doctor ordered! That would be Doctor ‘One Drop’ Dread (my Reggae name).

By way of full disclosure, as a matter of brevity and general reference, I usually just call ‘the event’ “The Reggae Marathon“. The disclosure part is that I have never actually run the Marathon. I intended to once, but that turned out to be a 10K. If you really want to know, you can read about the whole thing HERE. The next three times, I ran the Half Marathon. This time I will really run the 10K, starting with everyone else and doing it in the early morning as dark turns to dawn! Well, to be fair, I ran the 10K that first time too, but I started about two and a half hours after everybody else! Pretty sure it will be a lot more fun doing it the usual way and probably a bit cooler.

Original Three from Reggae Runners Half Marathon Challenge (Dan, Larry, Chris)

Original Three from Reggae Runners Half Marathon Challenge (Dan, Larry, Chris)

From the first time and through to this year, a group of friends has been forming and we all have our own little ‘competition’ within the race. I’ve talked about it before but it is known as the Reggae Runners Half Marathon Challenge (RRHMC). It started with just three of us and last year I think we hit something like twelve. It started when three of us met in Negril in 2011 and formed some kind of instant bond. Well, a trash-talking kind of bond, but a bond nonetheless! Early the next year, Larry Savitch (New York), Chris Morales (Ontario) and I (BC) realized we were all running a half marathon on the very same day, but all of us in a different location. Now, Larry is the young’un with Chris in the middle and me the old geezer. I mean, technically, Larry could be my son (if I had got started having kids just a bit earlier in life). How do you compare? Age Grading!

Deb's a Winna! And not just in the RRHMC!

Deb’s a Winna! And not just in the RRHMC!

That was a LOT of fun, so we imported the concept to the next Reggae Marathon and the three following. We added a bunch more people (male and female) and all three distances. The core group, although we are not all always there, includes Deb Thomas, Jetola Anderson-Blair, Court and Andrew Morales. There are more, but at the risk of leaving a few out, this is the list of longest and most frequent attendees and RRHMC participants. In short, with the magic of race calculators and age grading, we convert everyone to an age-graded half marathon time and find our winners from there. Well, actually, I think the term is WINNER. Thus far Deb Thomas has won each time. Larry Savitch keeps saying he is going to fix that, but so far ‘no cigar’.

Navin Sadarangani finishing first loop of the Marathon as the sun comes up (2011).

Navin Sadarangani finishing first loop of the Marathon as the sun comes up (2011).

Not everyone comes along every time like the “Four Amigos”: Chris, Larry, Navin Sadarangani and me. Since Navin doesn’t drink and therefore isn’t afraid the rest of us will get all the Red Stripe, he doesn’t seem to mind being on the road a bit longer, so he actually DOES the Reggae MARATHON! In any case, Chris (aka “That Runnin’ Guy“, aka the Reggae Marathon Official Blogger) has been attending the longest and has run a couple more times than any of us. When we are all at the finish mid-morning on Saturday December 5 for what has become our traditional photo, there will 22 fingers proudly on display representing our collective total and the five races Navin, Larry and I have each done, while Chris will hold up seven!

ThatRunninGuy (Chris Morales) Reggae Marathon Finish

ThatRunninGuy (Chris Morales) Reggae Marathon Finish

Come to think of it, Chris actually has done the full marathon, but tells us that is a ‘one and done’ deal for any marathon anywhere, anytime. He loves a good 10K and now sticks with that. Oh yeah, and Navin decided to make the 2014 Reggae Marathon into the (unofficial) Reggae 50K. Before the official start, he logged another 8K/5 Miles to add up to a 50K. I suppose it goes without saying Navin is a Marathon Maniac; some would say, with emphasis on Maniac. Larry would say that. I wouldn’t, ’cause I’m one too.

I mostly intend to have fun, but will be respecting (respec’ mon) the race and running it seriously. I am curious as to how that is going to work out. The one time I did do the 10K, the sun was well up when I started and it was warm. I was basically running with the marathoners who were in their second loop of the course. The other times I was doing the half marathon, so my 10K split was slower than if I was just going 10K and done. You do need to work with the course and the climate and the support to make a good race for yourself.

Sunrise over the Reggae Marathon

Sunrise over the Reggae Marathon

This time I will start with everyone else at 5:15am. I love the feel of the air at that time and all going to plan, will finish before the sun is up, probably just as the light of dawn is beginning to show in the sky. A quick check of race day conditions says it will be about 26C at the start and 31C as a high for the day. Sunrise is 6:31am and in my experience the temps never really rise until the sun is up. Also, 26C is a bit warm for 5:15am and the longer range forecast suggests it will be a low of 21-23C just a day or two later, so we’ll see. In any case, starting at 5:15am with sunrise at 6:31, I feel it safe to say I should be done by sunrise.

Finishing it up

Finishing it up

Most times I finished after 7:30am and that first time I hadn’t even started at 7:30, finishing closer to 9:00am. It is going to be quite something different to be standing at the finish in the semi-dark, watching the sun rise rather than doing it while pounding down the road in the second half of the half marathon. I think I can manage it. A big advantage will be to see if Larry will be able to beat Deb this time. The suspense is killing me! OK, maybe just making me mildly excited. I may have to think up a new prize though. I mean, how many copies of Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes do you suppose Deb wants?

THE LATEST ATHLETICS DOPING SCANDAL – AND ROOT CAUSES

11.17.2015

So, here we are again. Big news on the athletic doping scandals front. In this case it is ‘athletics’, the apparently proper term for track and field. We know though, that this is just the latest scandal and doping goes to other sport as well.

[Ed. Note: There are no photographs, no links, no references. This is strictly a personal opinion and perspective.]

I am certainly not an apologist for athletes deciding to take that extra elicit step to gain that last little advantage that takes them from being just generally amazing, to the gold medal – especially the gold medal in one of the BIG events like the Olympic Games. However, a little study on the matter without our sparkling white purist robes of sanctimony, might provide an explanation. And, might just pull the rest of us into the vortex of this swirling mess, because we are complicit in certain ways.

I am getting on in years, as most of you know. But, that means that when I first started competing in Athletics in my teens, even I, a mere school age runner, had to have my Amateur Athletics card! I keep EVERYTHING, but apparently not that. Sort of wish I still had it as a momento of those ‘pure‘ times.

Now, lest you think I am pining for simple and as I have put it, pure times in athletics – I am not. They may have been pure in the sense that the crazy money that comes with success, was not tainting the approach of athletes to their sport and training. But, as with so many things, nobody seems to be able to find a middle ground. In the times I am talking about you could lose your amateur status for accepting a prize of any practical value. I am talking about $5.00 or a useful prize of any sort. Naturally, ribbons, medals and trophies were fine. I DO in fact, have a bronze medal I won back in those days from a clubs track meet. And, maybe as soon as I post this piece, I will find my amateur card lurking among my old school stuff (because my running in those days was part school and part running club(s)). With my brother having just passed away, I’ve been rooting through a lot of that old stuff looking for memorabilia of our early athletic lives. So, it could happen.

Someone I currently know and who is older than me by almost a decade, was an Olympic race walker in his day, but still talks about how his status was threatened because he went to the US for a weekend workshop to coach some younger ‘walkers’ and accepted expenses. EXPENSES! After much argument, it was agreed that it was acceptable as he was not profiting. That was how it was. It was not pure. It was stupid. And with all that, did anyone ever take money under the table? I imagine they did.

In those ‘pure’ days there was so little money that athletes trained in their spare time. If they wanted to eat, they had to have a job. Nobody considered their athletic development and performance to be their job. Nobody had shoe sponsors. You bought your shoes! Nobody paid your way to a meet other than maybe via a club organized fund-raiser of some sort, but it certainly wasn’t by a sponsor.

Some team sport was organized such that a team might be sponsored by a bigger company which could offer jobs to the athletes and which might also be prepared to allow the time needed to travel and/or play. And, these were sports where amateurism was not required. I am going to add something that I am not 100% sure about, but that seems to ring one of those ‘bells’. As I recall, if you wanted to be an amateur, say in Athletics, you could not be a ‘professional’ in another sport. Of course if you were an East Block athlete, you were in the military. Your work WAS training for your sport. So much for the actual amateur on the field of play. That said, if you were one of the military athletes, you’d better keep your performance up or you really WOULD become a soldier.

People remember Steve Prefontaine for his running prowess and related exploits, not to mention his ever quotable quotes, but he was a pioneer in demanding that the athletes be able to share in the profits of the ‘sport’ that were accruing to those that ran the show, while athletes scrimped and sweated and starved. It would be interesting to know what his place in all of this would have been in later years, had he not died so young.

Some might suggest that it was only right that athletes actually profit from their abilities to excel and from the entertainment they provide the rest of us. I would be one of those people. Without the athletes, the Olympics just become the opening and closing ceremonies. Speaking for myself, I feel those have become obscene spectacles pushed by the ego of the hosting countries.

“Profit” is a loaded word though. I feel it is good that the best and maybe the soon to be best, are encouraged and supported, and given the opportunity to dig as deep into themselves as they need to, in order to produce what they are capable of producing in terms of performance on the field of play. The HUGE payday is something else. This is where it gets messy and complicated and a problem. I suppose this latest scandal with the Russians brings in another factor where the driving motive is the greater glory of the mother-land. We saw a lot of that in the Cold War days, when athletic prowess was conflated with the superiority of the political system.

Enter Performance Enhancing Drugs!

Actually, there is one more very important factor, whether it is a driving force in itself or the weak link to be exploited for profit. That is the competitive spirit of the elite athlete. Money, as such, may only be a way of keeping score. Winning is what it is all about. At one point some years ago, there was a psychological study done where the researchers asked a bunch of elite/semi-elite athletes if someone could hypothetically guarantee them an Olympic Gold Medal, but at the cost of five years of their lives, would they accept. As I recall, a huge proportion of them said ‘yes’. Now, asking a 20 year-old if a cost of five years off their life was worth it, might not be a fair question. No 20 year-old thinks he/she is ever going to die anyway. Also, it is hard to say whether it was the medal or the money that might follow, that drove the answer, but it was long enough ago that I personally feel it was the pure glory of being Olympic Champion. The really big money and sponsorships and endorsements had not kicked in the way it exists now.

I suggested the athletic desire to win is both a strength and a weakness. The big sponsors make money off the fact that the best of the best use THEIR product. If you want to be that guy/girl wearing the [insert brand here] gear and get paid the big bucks for doing so, you have to keep BEING the best of the best. Thus the ‘weakness’ to be exploited and the need for some to do whatever they have to do.

But what about the reference to the gear manufacturers? Even us weekend warrior runners buy shoes and other gear that will improve our performance. Shoe technology is just one, albeit very good example. The fabrics of our clothing are a factor too. If you happen to be a track athlete as opposed to a road or trail runner, would you even think about competing on a cinder track? If we want to be ‘pure’ maybe we should ban all these modern technological advances. What about some of the older (not even ancient, just a few decades) athletes and their records? How do you compare sprinters and their records from the cinder track era with today’s athletes. I often wonder what people like my hero, Harry Jerome, might do with modern gear, training and tracks. We are only talking about the 1960s. Maybe if we want to be pure, we should ban shoes completely, other than sandals and have the athletes compete naked, as was once the norm. But, I digress!

Many proponents of amateur athleticism did anticipate some of this modern stuff. However, there have been elements of this PED thing dating back to the ancient Olympics. Many of the early ‘games’ were military skills, and as such could be used not just for the warrior-athletes to prove themselves in a non-lethal way, but also for their  states to show their prominence. Not only that but the best of them were very much rewarded and idolized as we see today. I believe it was my old running/writing friend Roger Robinson who wrote a piece on the PEDs of the day. Yes! PEDs in the ancient games. Many athletes had secret potions, herbs and barks and special diets, that were reputed to give them extra strength or stamina. Did they? Maybe. Remember, a great many of our modern medicines are derived from natural sources. Once we know the active component, we no longer need to chew willow bark to cure our headache, we can just take an aspirin. We learn how to either extract or manufacture the active component and especially to manage and control the dose. Nonetheless, some of the stuff those ancient Olympians used probably did have some efficacy as a PED. Some, probably were more effective in making the athlete think HE was that powerful. I did learn that black magic was a no-no. Couldn’t hex your opponent, just wasn’t right.

Is it human nature to ‘do what it takes’? It seems that it is.

The Russian situation that has just come to the fore is one thing, but there have been rumours swirling for some time that Kenyan distance running may not be totally how it looks. We have seen individual athletes from almost everywhere get caught and punished. There are also stories that the US is as bad as any, where it comes to manipulating drug tests. I say these things only in the sense that the stories are out there, not that I am a believer or that I know one way or another. But, it is big business and big politics and big money for the best of the best.

Something we need to be clear on is that PEDs aren’t going to take a slug and turn him into a race horse. They aren’t like some kind of ‘nitro’ boost to the engine of a race car. That said, I have just had a sudden mental picture of the start of the 2028 100m Olympic final. Athletes are under starter’s orders. Each one approaches the blocks. A trainer is poised behind them with syringe in hand. The starter intones: “Runners, take your marks!” …… “Trainers, Inject Your Runner!” ……. “Set” – — Bang. Eight sprinters streak down the track to the finish in seven seconds, and those are the women. The men are up next to challenge the 5.31 second world record. Welcome to the All Drug Olympics.

I don’t pretend to have the answers. The root causes are terribly complex. I’ve touched on some of them here. I have tongue in cheek suggested here and elsewhere that we just let ‘er rip and go with full on drug enhanced sport and see just how far it will go. It will probably result in some spectacular performances, not to mention the odd in competition death, and let’s face it we do watch some sport not to actually SEE someone die, but with the delicious chance that the sport is dangerous enough that it could happen.

Personally, and I hardly think I’m alone, I do love to see dedicated athletes push themselves to their limit, but I’d rather see a slower record time for any given event if it was definitely the best anyone could do without external enhancement. Pure, in other words.

Something I do wonder about is whether some of the banned substances should actually be banned. What if we spent a bunch more money on determining whether certain substances really produce a significant enhancement in double blind tests? There is little doubt in my mind that there is a placebo effect in some cases. The substance works, mostly because the athlete believes it works, but in reality the enhancement comes because the athlete is inspired to dig deeper. I’m not saying that none of the so-called PEDs should be banned. There are a good many that should be banned, if for no other reason than the long-term harm they do to the individual who takes them. And, here we are back at the question about the guaranteed Olympic gold at the cost of five years of your life. BUT, if the banned list was short and absolute and the authorities were as smart and well equipped as the cheaters, we might be better off. Or not. Something to think about anyway.