AND NOW FOR SOMETHING NEW – SORT OF

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

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

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

Ellie Greenwood wins Comrades 2014

Ellie Greenwood wins Comrades 2014

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

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

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

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

Marathon Maniac

Marathon Maniac

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

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

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

Hayward Field - The Finish is Nigh

Hayward Field – The Finish is Nigh

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

Eugene Marathon - 2010 - Passing Hayward Field.

Eugene Marathon – 2010 – Passing Hayward Field.

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

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

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

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

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

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

05.02.2015

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

THERE IS NOTHING LEFT TO DO BUT RUN!!

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

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

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

Cambie Street - March 2012

Cambie Street – March 2012

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

Harry Jerome - Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC

Harry Jerome – Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC

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

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

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

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

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

04.30.2015

IMG_3662

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

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

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

Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon - 2008

Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon – 2008

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

Image - Version 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy BQ Team

Happy BQ Team

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

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

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

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

IS IT BMO VANCOUVER MARATHON TIME AGAIN?

04.28.2015
Runners Running 2013

Runners Running 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WILL POWER CAN MAKE THINGS HAPPEN – WALLY HILD

04.09.2015

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

Wally Hild

Wally Hild

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE EMOTIONAL SIDE OF RUNNING

03.22.2015

Jamaica Sunset - Copy

From time to time I’m known to drift off into this ‘thinky’ kind of writing. Actually, this particular post was inspired by something on social media, in which an individual was talking about running her first marathon with her husband (also a first). She had lots of questions about what to do and how to do it. Among others, I got into the conversation, but soon realized the most important advice was to remember that no matter what, it was their FIRST marathon and should be enjoyed as such because there would never be another one. Seems like I hit a ‘chord’ because a lot of people quickly agreed that they should soak in all the good stuff about a first marathon, especially that one and only FIRST MARATHON FINISH.

That was what got me thinking about the emotional side of running. The more I thought, the more I realized it could be the topic for a book rather than a puny little blog post. From my perspective, here are some top of mind aspects of the emotional part of running.

Vancouver Marathon 1988 (near finish)

Vancouver Marathon 1988 (near finish)

Since the only stuff I really, really know about is my own stuff, we’ll start with MY first marathon. I know that not everybody has done a marathon and that there is no need to ever run one. Still, for those who have or might be thinking about it, the first one has a special place in a person’s running history. For some, it may be special in their life experience.

There are a lot of mechanics to running a marathon whether you are an elite runner stepping up to that first competitive marathon, or a back of the packer taking on a personal challenge. Not having much first hand knowledge about the elite end of things, I will concentrate on the mid to back of the pack folk. Not to beat a good horse to death, I will mention once again that my first and best marathon was run in 1988 when I was 43 and was at a time just under 3:25. No chips then, so I’m rounding down a gun time of 3:25:19. Age grading would give me a theoretical time of about 3:14. I’m trying to squeeze this down to the very best time I can, at least partly to show I was an OK runner but certainly not sub-three hour, which a lot of people see as some kind of dividing line. I do.

I trained hard for that race, as hard and well as I’ve ever done. At the time, I was hanging out with a bad bunch of hard-core runners. Being weak, felt I had to do what the ‘other kids’ were doing. I ran six days a week, fitting in all the hills, speed work and intervals you might imagine as well as long runs, including doing the marathon distance twice in training. Naturally, races were done as part of the preparation and it turned  out that I ran my half marathon PB a couple of weeks before my target marathon (while holding back – at least I think I was). When the race got really near, I worked out a personal pacing plan. All this is to set the stage for my first marathon, the Vancouver International Marathon (1988). I can honestly say it was my best ever race. Best in the sense of management of my performance against my race plan. I ran exactly as planned, finishing within seconds of my target time and just as importantly, hitting my split times. I felt spent, but not exhausted. I could have run farther if the finish required it, but when I stopped I was done and could hardly even step up over the curb.

Vancouver Finish 1988 - My first marathon.

Vancouver Finish 1988 – My first marathon.

The big thing I remember about the last part of that race was the ‘bargaining’. Originally I planned that if I felt good with 5K to go, I would –  GO that is. Well, I did feel good, but at 37km, 5K seemed a lot longer distance than it did while plotting all this out on paper. “OK, 3K then.” That would be fine.

At 3K the discussion was repeated. I was still feeling pretty good, but did not feel a kick waiting to happen. “Carry on carrying on!” At a mile to go, it would be put it all out there time. When I saw the Mile to Go sign my brain said to my legs, “OK, let’s DO IT! Pick it up and take it home!” The reply from legs was something along the lines of: “Fine brain, you come on down here and do just that!” In fact, I pushed as hard as I could, but suspect that rather than faster, I just didn’t go slower. Remember in 1988, not only were there no chips, there were no gps devices to download your race to a computer for post-race analysis. I just know it was a strong finish and the best I could muster.

The last mile was quite respectable. I was definitely running, probably faster than I can right now on a good day at any distance. When I came to the finish, the precise location wasn’t as obvious as it is now with the timing mats, so I decided to run through the finish, just to be certain. I still remember the finish line official grabbing me and yelling “Stop! You’re done!!!”.

One reason I admonish first timers, or ‘marathon virgins’, to really enjoy the moment is that I had been so wrapped up in running to a high standard that I didn’t have that sense of great achievement until later. Oh, I was pleased with myself and had no doubt in my mind as to what I had done. The thing is that most of the marathoners in my club were those ‘sub-three’ people. I hadn’t got anywhere near that so was feeling more satisfied than ecstatic.  It was only later, a few days actually, that it began to dawn on me what I had done in a personal sense. It was only then that I had a feeling of great joy. Maybe because it took that long, it was the ‘best managed race ever’ idea that filtered through first and of that I was terribly proud. As I let that emerge, so then did the powerful feeling of knowing I was a MARATHONER. I guess nobody says that must happen at the finish line or it doesn’t count!

Most people do ‘get it’ when they cross the finish line, and the finish area can be a pretty emotional place. Oh yes, there ARE tears. I love to be there, especially when it is one of my charges from the running clinic where I lead a pace group, who is completing that first marathon. People start as runners and finish as marathoners. It is a magic thing.

For the moment I am mostly going to stay with my own examples and the marathon, because there can be a lot of emotion attached to a running achievement depending on circumstance, quite independent of performance.

Completing Victoria Marathon (October, 2000)

Completing Victoria Marathon (October, 2000)

I didn’t run my second marathon until 12 years later. I wasn’t planning on being a ‘one and done’ marathoner, but they weren’t as common as they are today. I was busy with work and family and frankly had no sense of urgency to do another one. My running was steadily improving and if I had any kind of a plan, it was to do the next one in 1990. Sadly, about a year after my first marathon I ruptured a disk in my back. It wasn’t until a good year after that when I was back to running of any kind, never mind being trained to do a marathon. In 1991 I did start training with a chap from work, but it was just too difficult with the work schedule, related travel and all. Fast forward to 2000 when for a bunch of reasons I just decided a marathon needed to be done. It turned out to be the (then) Royal Victoria Marathon. Did I run it well? I don’t know, but I finished and with the history of the back problem, this one may have been more emotional than the first one! It was interesting that even though I had trained pretty well and knew I should be able to finish, there was more uncertainty about how well I would do and even about finishing if I raced the distance.  There was an added bonus to this one, as I ran it with daughter Janna. Well, not exactly ‘with’ if you get my drift! Crossing the finish of my second marathon may have been more what the first should have been (on the day). Let’s just say it was pretty emotional. I had overcome a physical barrier and proven a point, to myself. AND, it was the first time I’d run a marathon with one of the kids! Running with our kids has been a big thing for me, and soon I can number a grandson along with the kids!

Family Half Marathon Challenge Complete

Family Half Marathon Challenge Complete l-r Danielle, Dan, Janna, Cameron

I think my MOST emotional marathon finish came by complete surprise. And no, I’m not going to describe every one of the 25 marathons I have run. What I am trying to get across is how we can be emotionally impacted by our achievements for reasons not directly related to the running itself. Number three was back in Vancouver in 2004. By this time, the idea of running a marathon was not quite the big deal it had been. I knew I could do it.

Until late in 2003 I had been very personally and professionally invested in a company that had huge problems. Foolishly I see now, I had put a lot into trying to ‘fix’ the unfixable. I pulled the plug in September of 2003. Training for Vancouver 2004 was never attached in any way to my career decision. It was just something I had time to do and wanted to do. So, cut to the finish of a so-so marathon that was kind of OK at the time, but which now rates only as my 8th best overall and 14th when age graded.

I was pleased to finish, but expected that I would. In those days Vancouver Marathon meant it when they said “Finisher Shirt“. You only got it when you were done. I wandered along through the athlete area of the finish and eventually collected my shirt. I decided to sit down and change into my new, hard earned and most importantly, DRY shirt. As I peeled off my soggy race shirt it was as if it somehow represented the difficulty of the last several years. I just dissolved in tears. I was literally sobbing for a couple of minutes. Good thing nobody was really near because they would have figured something was seriously wrong. The truth was, at that moment, things had become seriously RIGHT. It was completely emotional and symbolic, but it seemed like finishing that marathon had become emblematic of my new freedom. I knew right away. I just knew and let it wash over me until it was done. Frankly, it is making me a bit misty just writing about it.

I’ve had other marathons that were thrilling or satisfying – New York (2007), CIM (2009), Eugene (2010) finishing on Hayward Field and finding I had come third in my age group, but they were not like those first three with their important underlying reasons for being emotional. I suppose I should be honest and admit that emotion can go the other way. My last BMO Vancouver Marathon (May 2014) qualified as a super low. It was all me, not the event, although I’ll admit the weather didn’t help.

Chris Morales at the Reggae Marathon Finish

That Runnin Guy – Reggae Marathon Finish 2009

I said I would stay mostly with my own examples, but my friend Chris Morales (That Runnin’ Guy) has a moving story about his first (and to this point, ONLY marathon). He had powerful personal reasons and motivations to take on the marathon challenge. I am not going to attempt to explain them, but if you want to know more, you can read about it in his own blog post. Because of his heritage he chose the Reggae Marathon for his goal (he was born in Jamaica, but now lives in Toronto). At the left, he is finishing that epic race in 2009. And, if you don’t want to actually go read about it for yourself, you can just trust me that this WAS a very emotional moment for him.

All of this is to point out that running can bring us a lot of soul deep satisfaction if it is significant to the individual. I suppose for runners good enough to challenge the field, it might be a first win. In my case, the second marathon was the completion of a come-back from a physical challenge. That physical issue could be anything depending on the individual. The third marathon finish was emotionally powerful because it marked a huge milestone in my life having nothing at all to do with running, but was just symbolized by finishing that race. I would hope with these examples, many people can relate to something that rings a bell in their own life.

A forest trail on Mount Frosty (Manning Park, BC)

A forest trail on Mount Frosty (Manning Park, BC)

Personally, and I know as I write this that it is likely true for most runners, I find that the circumstances of certain runs, runs not necessarily races or finishes, can lead to highly emotional feelings. As you run a forest trail or through a field or over a mountain on a sunny morning, temperature right, birds singing, you may suddenly be filled with a sense of joy or peace: the feeling that it just doesn’t get any better. You almost don’t want to breathe lest it pass from you, it is that deep. Tell me, if you have been running for any amount of time at all, that this hasn’t happened to you. You can’t make it happen. It just does, but when it does it is deeply emotional.

I was going to qualify the previous point with something like ‘unless you are an absolute beginner, just getting through those early days when everything seems hard’ but realized that completing some of those early runs when you are just starting, can be extremely satisfying, fulfilling and emotional. As a clinic leader I’ve seen it so many times. It happened quite recently when one of my ‘charges’ stated with brightly glittering eyes after a longish training run: “That is the longest I’ve every run!”

Some events might have strong emotional meaning or impact in their own right. There are a few that mean a lot for me. When I am there, doing whatever it may be, it just feels right in an ‘all is right with the world’ kind of way. I feel that way most of the time when on the Hood to Coast Relay. There, it is the people and the oneness of the team as much as anything, but I’ve done other relays and have never felt any of them to be as ‘right’ as Hood to Coast. It’s just me, but that is the point. The event doesn’t matter. The ‘why’ doesn’t matter. Still, the feeling is powerful and IT does matter.

At the Start - 1989  Hood to Coast Relay

At the Start – 1989 Hood to Coast Relay

Speaking of Hood to Coast reminded me of another specific time when the feel-good factor can kick in for a runner. I know that not everyone runs in a competitive way, but I do and so do a lot of others. To be clear, the term competitive does not necessarily mean fast or out to win. It means not being happy unless you are striving to be the best you can, even if the only person you can beat is yourself. Hood to Coast has a rocketing downhill on the very first leg. Since my first time in 1989, Leg #1 has changed only a little. The road has definitely improved and nobody runs it in the dark now. The fastest I’ve run over a sustained distance (5.4 miles) is Leg #1. I came down Mt Hood, in the dark, at an average pace of 5:59/mile (3:42/km). I felt like I was flying. I felt like a ‘winner’. I think for a moment I got an idea of what a really good runner must feel like. As hard as I was running, it felt easy and fluid. Like I said, I was flying! If something like that doesn’t hit you where you live, I kind of feel sorry for you.

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

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

Sometimes it is the vibe around an event that makes you feel it is ‘just good’, and I don’t mean technically. The Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K is that way for me. It is the people for sure – see the picture to the right with four friends who met through this event. We span almost 35 years, are of clearly different abilities, come from a wide range of home places not to mention ethnicities and we have gelled as a close group of friends even though most of the rest of the time we are separated by many miles.  But regarding the event, it is more too. I’ve described some of that in other posts about the Reggae Marathon, and it doesn’t matter anyway because it is just a personal perception. If I’ve got you thinking about it, you will probably already be contemplating some event that makes you feel the same way.

Another personal thing is EXCELLENCE. I love to witness excellence happening. Once in a while I even know the person displaying that excellent performance, people like Ellie Greenwood, Dylan Wykes, Rob Watson and Harry Jerome (as a kid, I was in the same track club and trained ‘with’ him). It thrills me to witness the act of taking some aspect of running to a new place. I suppose in a negative way I am pretty emotional about what doping does to the purity of elite performance, even if it is just the doubt factor it creates.

It must be time to wrap this up, if it is going to remain a blog post and not turn into the book mentioned near the beginning. I hope I’ve got across that what causes a deep emotional response or impact varies across a huge spectrum. It is so very personal and while it could be performance based, it need never have to do with performance as such. Completing an event when you weren’t sure or never thought you could, might be the trigger. Coming back from a downturn can be huge. Well, you get the idea.

Maybe, on your next easy run, mull these ideas over and see what comes to you about the emotional side of your running experience.

[Ed Note: Upon review before posting (oh yes, I do review and edit these things) I realized it could easily have a sub-title along the lines of: “Or Why I Will Keep Running Just as Long as I Am Able”]

DOES ANYBODY EVER RUN 5Ks THESE DAYS?

03.16.2015
Probably my most significant 5K Medal

Probably my most significant 5K Medal

Reverse side tells WHY. Inaugural BAA 5K.

Reverse side tells WHY. Inaugural BAA 5K.

The title is a question (or something close to it) that appeared on the Marathon Maniac Facebook page. I think it may have been ‘how many of you run 5Ks’ or something like that. I will admit that the Marathon Maniacs aren’t your average cross-section of runners. They are MARATHON Maniacs. I get some interesting ideas about topics from that page though.

When you spend a lot of your time and money training for and getting to marathons some might not think there is a place for the lowly, perhaps ‘puny’, 5K. Some did feel that way, but I was pleasantly surprised how many extolled the virtues of the 5K, both as a race in itself but also as a powerful tool for improving speed and strength while running our beloved marathons.

The 5K is often the ‘go-to’ distance for charity runs. Nothing wrong with that. With a little slack on the time, most people can cover 5K one way or another and it suits the purpose.  But, it may give the wrong impression regarding what a killer distance the 5K can be. So many people, and not just my Marathon Maniac friends, say things like, “You run marathons. How hard can a 5K be?”  The answer is plenty tough, depending of course on how hard you run. Naturally, if you run 5K at marathon pace it would be pretty easy. The thing is, if you are a serious runner (and that does not necessarily mean blazing fast), you will not be running at marathon pace. You will be running at 5K pace, YOUR 5K pace, but for any given runner, by definition that will be HARD. That pace is different for each person, but sort of like the table of Boston Qualifier marathon times that are all over the map depending on gender and age, if you do your 5K all out, it will be hard! Speaking of the Boston Marathon, I have alas been unable to nail one of those BQ’s (OK, maybe on my first, but that was a long time ago and a long story). Whatever, I’ve never run Boston. I did accompany our daughter Janna when she did it in 2009, so was thrilled to be able to run the Inaugural BAA 5K, held the day before the big event. That is the story behind the photographs at the top of the page.

The 5K is hard physically AND mentally. There is no rest phase (for the weary).  Mentally, you need to be strong and keep the accelerator down. In a half or full marathon there may well be a time when you can back off the absolute edge and catch a little rest. As some people in the Maniac discussion commented, you need to warm up almost as far as the race distance in order to run a 5K well, not to mention actually TRAIN for the distance. Again, in a marathon, for most people, there is no real reason to warm up beyond stretching out your legs. The early part of the race let’s you get into a rhythm and pace zone. No such luxury in a 5K. You’d better be ready to rock it from the gun.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that you should or must run a 5K this way, but if you are a serious runner looking for performance in your races, I guess I am. Then there is the elite end of things. Watching the truly fast 5,000m runner shows what speed and endurance is really about. It is nothing short of breath-taking – literally! The World Record for 5,000m on track is an average pace of 2:32/km or just around 4:05/mile. Recall that within my lifetime it was said that if anyone ever ran a mile under four minutes they would die. [Ed. Note: This turned out not to be true at all!]

My competition at the Giants Head Run in June!

My competition at the Giants Head Run in June!

I have run more than one 5K just for fun and I have just committed to another one in June. That one will be with the older of my two grandsons. And, it will be a full circle return to the first race event I ever did as an older runner (older, as in not a teen). It is the Giants Head Run 5K in Summerland, BC. Charlie hasn’t done 5K yet, but is getting there and says he will be ready for June.

I just want to do it with him. He wants to do it with me. Time doesn’t matter. I’ve heard he might be a bit nervous because he knows I’m a long-time runner, which he seems to be confusing with being fast! He loves triathlon and has done a number of ‘mini-tri’ events. His Mom made me promise we’d go easy because like all kids, he might take off like he was only going 100m (and because I’m old?). Could be. We’ll see. Frankly, that ‘start too fast’ trait is hardly reserved for kids, as all runners know all too well! Youngsters develop so fast. He may already be able to whup me if he just paces himself a little.

Hmmmmmm. Go Charlie! Go! Run like the wind!!!  He, he, he,  – atta’ boy!

It reminds me a little of a time when my brother was a teen and working out a bit. He came up from the basement one afternoon and challenged our Dad to arm wrestle.  They struggled a bit and then my brother took the win. Not much was said, but off he went back to the basement (to work out a bit more?).  My Mom scolded my Dad and said, “You really shouldn’t let him win like that!”  My Dad paused and looked at her like only he could do and just replied, “I didn’t.” (Oh, and for the record, my Dad was no push-over.)                         Go Charlie!!  Run!  You can do it!

Actually, there is no reason his Mom and Dad couldn’t run too. Make it a real family affair. Maybe we could have a team shirt! Three generations. I like it!!

[Editor’s Note: Just checked that the GH Run ‘5K’ goes where I thought it did.] Turns out it is actually 5.4K! At least they now declare that right up front. I am quite pleased about the ‘full disclosure’ because with the extra 0.4km I would have been wondering. Now we know.

article-2211641-1548A2EB000005DC-773_634x420Speaking of running 5Ks for fun I was honoured to be asked to run a 5K as part of a local support group when Fauja Singh came to Surrey, BC and ran the Surrey International World Marathon Weekend 5K. You might remember him as the amazing 100 year-old runner who was even doing marathons up to that age. When we ran in Surrey I think he was about 102. Frankly, we were asked to kind of form an ‘invisible protective shield’ around him to make sure he didn’t get bumped or anything. HA! First of all, he ran it in 35 and change and when he saw the finish (and heard the dulcet tones of Mr. Steve King), he picked up the pace. I had to shift gears to keep up! It was a truly inspirational day. He had many family members around him including, I imagine, some great grand-kids. The whole time we were running he was making comments and even if I didn’t understand what he was saying, it seems by the way the people around him kept cracking up, that the old boy was being pretty witty while he clocked off a very respectable 5K.

Getting back to the matter of the 5K as race and off of the 5K as a family affair, it is a fun and demanding distance. Not only that, but as many in the on-line discussion pointed out, it is an integral part of a good marathon training program. Naturally we all run various distances in training for a marathon but some racing will sharpen you for the longer distance. Few can push in training, the way we do in a race. A number of races interspersed in the training schedule will put you in peak form. Some feel that if you are working up to a serious target marathon, a good half marathon a few weeks before will set you up very well. My half marathon PB came just that way, as I trained for what was to be my marathon PB. That said, a couple of short fast races add another dimension to your preparation.

The Marathon Maniacs are an interesting group among which is a crowd who do crazy numbers of marathons, running one every week and some will do a couple of a weekend. That said, and while some Maniacs count hundreds of marathons in their totals, the average is something like 3.25/year. Some just don’t care how long it takes as long as they cross the start and finish and get an official time. Nothing wrong with that. Some appear to be ‘bucket-listers’ that have set a goal to become a MM member and maybe never do another, or certainly not at the pace that you might imagine a Maniac would do. Mixed into this now 11,000 strong crowd are some very fine and competitive runners who take every race and every step very seriously. I am guessing that #1, #2 and #3 (the club founders) can still rip off a 3 hr marathon whenever they please.

So, it was interesting when this discussion of 5Ks started, it seemed like it flushed out a lot of serious runner types because most of the comments swirled around the value of the speed work and how it was great training and prep for serious marathoning. I certainly believe it, even if what I do these days doesn’t look like the work of any kind of speed demon!

Finishing the Canada Day 5K (2014) for an age group podium place.

Finishing the White Rock Canada Day 5K (2014) for an age group podium place.

One of the personal issues I have (and maybe others of my vintage) with racing shorter distances – 5K, 8K and 10K primarily, is that pushing that hard (training and racing) tends to bring on injuries. Running for endurance also has its challenges for me, but I am far less prone to injury. Even though family members are promoting that I should shorten my racing distances, I am not quite there yet. Fewer marathons? Yes, I can see that. Zero marathons?  I’m not sure. Not yet. After a really bad one at Vancouver last May and a pretty good one (for me) at Salt Lake City in September, I thought maybe it would be good to let the Big Cottonwood Marathon be my 25th (it was) and final marathon. That MAY be how it does turn out, but some new projects have been popping up in my head and as long as the last marathon I do is a great experience, I am feeling OK to go on for a bit. What is a great experience? Either a good ‘pure’ performance or a very satisfying event where I did not necessarily run for time but rather the experience.

Will 5K races be part of that? You can bet your booties (or racing flats) on that! Will the 5K be a satisfying and serious race for me in the future? It sure will! Hey, now that I’m in a new age group, if I choose races carefully, I might even win a few (age group), or at least place.

WHAT TO DO? WHAT TO DO?

03.13.2015
March 11/15  "Pirate" at the 'Puter'.

March 11/15 “Pirate” at the ‘Puter’.

First off, as long as I have this patch/shield on, I’m allowed to talk like a pirate! So mateys be warned, ahaaar.

You may ask yourself: “But why does he have the patch?”

The answer is that I just got my new ‘bionic’ eye. That kind of sounds better than just saying I had cataract surgery. I think so anyway. I opted for a lens that is supposed to correct most of my other vision issues. Once I get the other eye done in the Summer, it is highly probable that I will not need glasses. Maybe for reading, but otherwise, no. As a runner (semi-blind runner who really needs to wear glasses all the time) I am thrilled at the idea of not having to wear glasses when I run, or alternately to get myself some good sport sun-glasses for when I need them. For those who don’t know, regular glasses are not made to really stay in place when your face starts getting sweaty. I don’t have nearly enough money to afford good prescription sport sun-glasses.

Speaking of not having enough money, I sadly had to forego the X-Ray vision option. OK, so there is no such thing at the moment and even if there was I don’t have any other super powers anyway. I mean, at this point the only locomotives that I’m faster than are ones sitting in museum displays. As for the leaping over tall buildings, I don’t run trails because I trip over roots and rocks. OK, OK, you got me but I was never faster than a speeding bullet nor more powerful than a locomotive, so I kind of combined those two. Call it poetic license.

The big challenge it seems, is that I can’t run (sweat really, so no substitute exercise either) for two or maybe three weeks – TWICE. The other eye is scheduled for July and we will have to do the whole thing again then. This will be a bit of a struggle as I have some running goals including the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon followed by the Eugene Half a week later. Then, I am signed on for the Big Cottonwood Half Marathon in Utah in mid-September. I feel that I’m in decent shape as I now hit ‘pause’ and can pick it up sufficiently in the time between my return to activity and the first race (Vancouver on May 3). We’ll see how it goes, but Vancouver might wind up being a good hard training race with Eugene as the one I will do for performance. I will try to do the same thing re Big Cottonwood. Train and run well leading up to the down-time for the other eye, then pick up again in the several weeks prior to Big Cottonwood.

Having the cataracts looked after is more important in the long run than the races I may miss or have to run easy. Everyone I know who has had this procedure done raves about it. Since I’m writing this only hours after the first operation, I am still struggling a bit with one fairly dilated pupil and a kind of ‘fog’ in the eye with the new lens. That said, it is already clear that I can see so much better with that eye (no glasses) haziness notwithstanding. I’m told it will take a day or two for the vision to clear completely. It was amazingly painless with just a bit of an annoying ‘scratchiness’ or irritated feeling at the moment.

[A day or two later, OK, two days later.] What a treat! The ‘new’ eye is seeing better than it has in decades at 20/25. Apparently things are going along pretty well. I have one more visit to the surgeon and then I think other than the recovery phase, this one is done.

March 13/15  One lens glasses. No pirate look.

March 13/15 One lens glasses. No pirate look.

I’m still wearing the shield at night to protect myself from rubbing the eye in my sleep. The only one it seems to be bothering is my wife who finds all that pirate talking to be quite annoying when she is trying to sleep. As I sit here typing, I have busted the left lens out of my computer glasses which is so much better than trying to ignore the fact I can’t see out of my right eye without glasses, OR putting up with the mess of having to try to use my new eye to look through the prescription. Looks a little silly maybe, but nobody is going to see me. The rest of the time when I’m just walking around and not doing anything ‘close’, I am finding that the new improved left eye works best when I don’t wear glasses and let it just dominate the right eye. Again, better than fighting with the prescription on the left side. Can’t do the same trick with my regular glasses (removing one lens) as I still need the reading part.

I guess if I cant run or use any sweat inducing gym gear, writing may pass the time. Thanks for helping with that by reading this.

If I ever had any doubt about the tales of wonder I have heard from others who have had this procedure, I sure don’t now. The procedure was amazingly fast, taking only about 10 minutes of actual work on my eye. I arrived at the hospital out-patient facility at 7:20am and was home at 9:30am.  I must admit that the clerk who checked me in gave me a little thrill when she said, “Daniel Cumming, cataract surgery, right eye.”  Now I know I need to get the right one done, but the lens to be inserted has a prescription built into it.  YIKES

Anyway, it was OK and I must have been asked my name and what I was there for and which eye, about a dozen times!  The last time was just before the ‘cutting’ started, when the surgeon said, “Will you please tell everyone here your full name and what you are here for?” I did and away we went.

I’m sure the various, and multiple, drops going in my eye included some anaesthetics but the whole thing was painless and I was totally awake and aware at all times. To my surprise there were no diabolical torture-like devices to secure my head. There was a depression in the ‘pillow’ under my head and the rest of the stabilizing, the doctor did with his free hand.

Since I can see and compute and not much else, I have been surfing around upcoming races and planning my return to running and competing. I mean, I haven’t run my first race as a M70-74 competitor as yet.  The first one for which I AM registered is the Vancouver Half, but the Sun Run is a possibility. We’ll see what happens later. Get it?  We’ll SEE!

START ‘EM YOUNG AT A RACE THAT CARES!

03.04.2015

And, by young, I mean shortly after conception!

IMG_2843

Resting after the ordeal!

No, I have not completely jumped the tracks. This is a true and fun story about our brand new grandson, Jonah. The whole family is pretty crazy about  running (and about Jonah at this particular moment in time), even if I am the only one ‘certifiable’ where it comes to the running (Marathon Maniac #6837). Our daughter Janna is the current top performer within our ‘clan’ where it comes to speed.  Although, since she is also Jonah’s Mom, she is on a bit of a hiatus for the moment. That said, the last race she ran was the Winnipeg Police Service Half Marathon. She did OK too, considering that she was kind of in the morning sickness phase of her pregnancy (21/153 in her age group, 338/1578 OA and in a time of 1:50:42).

Truth be told, she is probably not the only woman ever to run a race while ‘in the family way’. Still, I was impressed and decided as a fairly nutso runner that even if he was doing a ‘ride-along’ (hey, it was the Police Service race) Jonah was a finisher just like his Mom. Finishers get a finisher medal. A plan was hatched!

I contacted the Winnipeg Police Service Half Marathon officials and told them my story and asked if it was remotely possible to obtain a finisher medal from the 2014 event. They saw the story like I did and got right into it! They  sent me the medal I requested AND a wonderful pink plush pig for Jonah (which will likely be more appreciated by him in the short-term, than the medal). I had the wonderful opportunity to make the surprise presentation of the medal and official race pig when we arrived in Winnipeg to meet our newest family member! To say it was well received may just a bit of an understatement.

There is more to the story, but I want to stop right here and say how much we all appreciate this fabulous gesture from a race that really gets it. I’m not from Winnipeg and even if we did live in Morden, MB for a couple of years,  have never run this race. But, I am sure that any event that cares enough to help me out with my personal fun project, is a race to be run. Since we are going to be making regular visits to Winnipeg, it is sure on my ‘to do’ list to run the race. I mean, our daughter and grandson have done it, and I’m pretty sure our son-in-law ran it a couple of years ago. Maybe one day not too long from now, we can all do one of the events together. It won’t be this year as I am already committed to the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon on the same day, but I’d sure recommend the Winnipeg Police Service Half Marathon, Relay and 5K to anyone who is looking for a good event to do.

The 2015 Version is  on May 3 and will also include a 5K this time around. The 5K is a new addition to open the event to more people. It is all part of moving into the second decade of the event (2014 was the 10th running of the race). With the half marathon plus a two leg team-relay event and now the 5K, there is pretty much something for everyone where it comes to distance, 5K, 10K (sort of) and 21.1K.

Back to Jonah’s big debut race. I am given to understand that in due course, he will be receiving his finisher certificate and also understand he MAY have won the ‘under nine months’ category! Let’s face it, we had to wait until we knew his name before a certificate could be made. OK, I admit that winning the under 9 months category  may be a bit like me winning some races in the 70+ category (just not that much competition). But hey, it already gives us something in common!

There is a new family running project in the works. With any luck, sometime before too long,

Jonah and his Grandad

Jonah and his Grandad

Jonah and his Dad and Mom, our other grandson Charlie (he will be nine years old this summer), his Mom and Dad, the Grandad (that would be me) and the Nana will all be able to enter the same race and do it together! Why, we might even convince Uncle Cameron to come out of retirement for this! Charlie says he is up for a 5K and while Jonah seems enthusiastic enough (OK, so it might have been  gas that made him smile when I asked what he thought), he will probably have to take part in a baby jogger. The big trick is going to be getting everybody in the same place at the same time because we are scattered all over the place from Victoria to Winnipeg. If we can do it, you KNOW there will be a team shirt!

When I started writing this, we were actually in Winnipeg, meeting the newest family member! The morning when this photo was taken he was having a visit with his Grandad. I thought I was entertaining him with my witty commentary, but he fell asleep right there in my arms. Next thing though, his little legs started to go – I’m pretty sure he was having a running dream!!

WHAT? IT’S 2015? ALREADY!?

01.04.2015
Dawning of a New Year!

Dawning of a New Year!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Morning Beach Scene - Negril, JA

Morning Beach Scene – Negril, JA

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

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

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

Big Cottonwood Marathon Expo

Big Cottonwood Marathon Expo

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

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

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

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

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

See you on the roads!