Archive for October, 2010

Report From the Road


I just posted a piece called “Running on the Road”.  Maybe one of the reasons I was moved to write it was the fact that I was about to get into a new round of running while on a long trip.

This introduction is being written at something like 39,000 ft on the way to Hong Kong.  Sometime in the next day or two I hope to get out there for a bit of a run.  Actually, we are travelling with friends to a number of places but Hong Kong is the only place I have not yet run (at a country level).  There will be a number of new cities or areas where I have not been or run (Chiang Mai, Thailand and Perth, Australia).  However, I have run in both Australia and Thailand, just not those specific places.  I may have to expand my hobby from countries to states, provinces and cities.  For now, though, I guess I will stay with recording new countries.

Do keep watching the blog as several others have agreed to help out and I will be staying involved as we go.  Aaah, the miracle of the internet and WiFi connections!

Well, we touched down in Hong Kong AND lifted off again a few days later for Bali.  I did get a run in and it was a super treat.  As I mentioned in Running on the Road, it is sometimes difficult to find a place to run if you don’t know the lay of the land. 

Green Oasis

Oasis of Green in Busy Kowloon

It took me a couple of days but I found an amazing oasis of green and calm in the middle of bustling Kowloon.  It was relatively small and all the trails were either up or down (more like a mountain trail run than anything else) but the location and the fellow park users, walking, talking doing tai chi or whatever they thought was best made it special.  If you are ever in that area and looking for a place to walk or run then look for Kings Hill just off Waterloo Rd.

Next up is Bali.  I have run there before and know exactly where I am going and that the options for running have even improved since last we visited.  I am actually writing this submission from Bali but we are in a small country resort in the jungle and roads are the only option.  It doesn’t feel safe, with very narrow roads filled with motor-bikes, cars, trucks, motor-bikes, buses, motor-bikes, so I am waiting for our next location where I know the running will be very good!  This report is not to gloat, much, but really to point out just how much fun this kind of running can be.

In the next day or two we will be catching up with Rod Waterlow again as he prepares for CIM in Sacramento – another version of “Running on the Road” – the purpose driven race.

Never Too Late to Be Great – Report #1


CIM – 6 Weeks Out and Counting

Rod Waterlow

This series is about and by Rod Waterlow who has been invited as a senior elite athlete to compete at the California International Marathon (Sacramento) on December 5.  We are following Rod’s approach and process as he prepares for and runs this popular and still growing event.  For more background on Rod and the Race, see the first post in the series.

Rod, that is an interesting photo of you in the introductory piece and as your “signature” bio shot.  Care to comment?

The picture was taken in a local coffee shop where my running buddies and I meet after our long runs.  It was shortly after the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics had come to an end and there was still an incredible “buzz” and a sense of national pride throughout the city.  Although I didn’t run in the Olympic relay, which took the flame all across Canada, I know several people who had the honour to be chosen as torch bearers.  Each of the runners had the opportunity to buy their own torch, and was encouraged to share the experience with as many people as possible.  One of the torch bearers runs with our group and brought the torch to the coffee shop.  I think you can tell by the look on my face that it was a real thrill to actually hold a torch which had been part of such a historic event.  

Let’s get down to business, then.  We can assume you follow a structured training program, including the ever popular “long run”.  Do you ever include racing in marathon training?

Yes, but not as much as I used to.  In 1986, the year after I ran my first marathon, I really caught the running bug and there were periods when I would be racing almost every weekend at various distances from 5 km and up, including two half-marathons, a 30 km and two marathons.  In recent years I have focused on the longer distances, the half and full marathons, which seem to be more suited to my body type.  This pattern is consistent with the programs of the running clinics with which I am involved which are designed to incorporate and/or peak for various half and full marathons.  For example, this year there were at least three marathons and half-marathons (Victoria, Kelowna and Portland) on the October long weekend and many of my running buddies participated.  Because I will be running the California International Marathon (CIM) in December, I decided not to run the full-marathon but opted to run the half-marathon in Victoria.  My approach to the training for a marathon is basically the same as the way I approach the actual race (or, for that matter, life itself), it’s all about pacing!  I still like to run about three half-marathons and a couple of full-marathons every year, but I have no illusions that I will ever run 3:10:14 again – hey, I’m not fifty any more!    

Editor’s Note:  Rod may not be 50 any more but he managed to win his age category in a spritely 1:44:08 in a field of some 22 runners aged 70-74.  Apparently, preparations are going well for CIM.

Never Too Late to be Great

Rod with 2010 Olympic Torch

Rod Enjoys the Olympic Spirit

I have it on good authority that some of the “more seasoned” Seasoned Athletes are out there doing things that, taken in context, really measure up on the performance scales.  Anyone who has read Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes has already met some of these people.  It is the goal of this blog to introduce more.

This is the beginning of a series of posts I have asked a friend and “senior elite” runner to make over the next couple of months.  We all know that bigger races invite top runners to grace the lead pack and give excitement to their events and inspire those not quite ready or able to match them stride for stride!

I have just learned that Vancouver based Rod Waterlow has been invited, at the age of 73, to attend and compete at the California International Marathon in Sacramento, CA, one of my personal favorite events.  Because it is far more common that the 28 year-old sub-2:20 marathoner is the invitee, and because this blog is primarily by, about and for the seasoned athletes among us, I find Rod’s invitation “News” and worth following.

I have asked Rod to provide us an insight to his preparations, thoughts, aspirations, experiences and finally the race itself, which happens December 5, 2010.  As much as anything, the series is meant to encourage and inspire older runners to keep it going and strive to be the best we can be at any age.

Because, like so many of the RITZ contributors, Rod is actually a modest man (who mostly lets his legs do the talking) I think it important that I give you a bit of a profile of him and his achievements.  To do that, I asked him a few questions to set the stage for the coming posts:

Rod, have you always been a runner?

No, although I was on my high school cross country team for one year, I didn’t enjoy organized sports and there was a thirty year gap before I eventually took up running in my late forties. 

What got you started into running after all that time?

Looking back, I think the genesis of my running career was a chance conversation I had at a St. Patrick’s Day party over twenty-six years ago.  A group of us were standing with drinks in our hands and a family friend told us that he was planning to run the Vancouver Marathon at the beginning of May.  Like most people, I had always thought of running the marathon as an impossible dream and, in fact, I didn’t know that there was a marathon race in Vancouver.  Six weeks later, I telephoned our friend and he confirmed that he had indeed completed the 26.2 miles in under four hours – better than he had expected.

What did you do then?

I guess I was inspired by his achievement, so I put on some old runners and went for a run around the block, only to discover that a block has four sides and I only had enough energy for two and a half!  I subsequently learned that our friend had trained for the previous eight months at the YMCA Marathon Clinic.  The clinic started in late September and ran through until the end of April, peaking for the Vancouver Marathon.  It was assumed that all participants would already be able to run continuously for an hour, so I started to run two or three time a week.  By the end of the summer my stamina had improved and I was able to run for about forty-five minutes, but I was still somewhat below the prerequisite standard.  The first run was a complete disaster and I had to walk the last mile, all the time thinking, “What have I got myself into?” and “I can’t quit now I’ve paid the money”!

How did your marathon training progress?

Although I struggled at first, I hung in with the clinic and by the end of the first month I was able to run comfortably with my pace group.  The training schedule included increasingly longer runs with shorter recovery runs every couple of weeks.  However, when I started with the clinic there was a much greater emphasis placed on total mileage per week, and the longest runs were no more that 18 miles (30 km).  The longer runs with the clinic were supplemented by mid-week runs on my own, and as the training progressed there were some weeks when I would run 45-50 miles (70-80 km).  As I gained more experience and confidence I adjusted my total mileage to about 60 km per week, and by the spring of 1985 I was primed and ready to run my first marathon, which I completed in 3:17:50.  

So, that is how it began.  A chance conversation at a party, leading to a crazy ambition.  It is actually amazing how many of the original RITZ contributors, if they weren’t elite athletes who started running in their youth, have a similar story of doing something in school followed by a couple of decades of non-running, then taking up the sport sometime in their 40’s.

Once he did get started though, Rod showed that he was a bit of a natural.  About two years after his first marathon, at the age of 50, Rod recorded his marathon PB at 3:10:14 (Portland). 

Clearly, he was just getting started.  He ran Boston in 1997 and New York in 2008, where he placed third in his category.   In 2008 he was ranked Second (National) by Marathon Canada, recording a best time at Vancouver of 3:43:02.  In 2009 he was ranked Third, with a best of 3:43:35 at Eugene, OR.  And, at present in 2010 Rod is ranked Second with a best time of 3:56:39 at Vancouver.  He is looking forward to CIM, his 25th marathon, as a place to return to form and show he is over an injury that has slowed him over the last year. That form has seen him win his age category in six of his last nine marathons.

Not to set up any unreasonable expectations, but CIM has a reputation as a quick course.  Rod is feeling and running better.  Will there be magic on the road from Folsom to Sacramento?  Will the weather cooperate (sometimes it doesn’t)? Will the “Canadian Connection” work for Rod?  Note: Runners from Canada have won CIM six times over the years and several others have done well in age categories.

Stay tuned, as we follow Rod on the road to Sacramento.  Follow his adventure and join me in enjoying his story as he strives to continue with his running saga and pursuit of personal excellence.

22nd First Half Half Marathon

Lead Pack at 1 Mile

2009 First Half Leaders - 1 Mile

Registration is just over three weeks away!

The “First Half” Half Marathon first began in 1989 and, but for another little event that displaced it in 2010, the next running would have been the 22nd Annual First Half.  Instead,  the 2011 race will be the 22nd First Half.  Over those many years the “First Half” has become a very popular event, selling out in hours.

As a former Race Director of the “First Half” I feel that I have a pretty good inside perspective on the event and the people who make it special.  First among those are the volunteers, because this is a 100% volunteer run race.  Pacific Road Runners is the host club and from the membership of PRR comes most of the core race committee.  But, it doesn’t stop there.  Scores of other people step up every year to fill out the 250 odd volunteer positions necessary to stage this event.  This is a key aspect of the success of the “First Half”, that and obsessive attention to detail.

The “First Half” has only had six Race Directors over the first 21 races, and now Nicki Decloux has stepped up as the seventh.  Continuity is another aspect of steadily growing the race and making it as popular as it is.  Nicki is far from a newcomer, having already held several of the key committee posts.

You can’t do it without sponsors, and the “First Half” has been supported by a long list of superbly dedicated sponsors including Forerunners, which has been with the race since the very first staging of the event.  In 2009 Mizuno became a major sponsor and race garment supplier and continues in that role for 2011.

The date for opening of registration has now been announced as November 4, 2010 and for the first time, so has the hour: 7:00 AM.  All registration is online.  Over the last several years the race has sold out all 2000 running slots, first taking several weeks, then just over a week, a few days, about 12 hours, 5 hours and for the 2009 race, just 3:26.  There is nothing to say the trend will continue, but a word to the wise would suggest not taking a chance!  With a three hour limit on the race, insiders wonder if the day will come when registration takes less time than the slowest runner takes to finish the race.

Then, there is the post-race food.  This race has built a considerable reputation for the spread of “recovery” products available to tired runners on a cool February morning, including hot soup, fruit, bagels, muffins, juice, steaming coffee and much more!

Finally, on the structure side of the race there is the route, which most people will tell you is second to none, using the pathways along English Bay and the Stanley Park Seawall.

But, this is a foot-race, so those 2000 runners are also a key component.  Over the years this race has attracted some of Canada’s top runners and past winners have included Olympians, and world level competitors.  Frankly though, as nice as it is to have this kind of quality at the pointy end of the race, it is the rest of the field that makes it a race and every one of those competitors is out there giving his/her personal best on the day, regardless of the time showing on the clock as they finish.

To top it all off, the “First Half” is a major supporter of Variety – the Children’s Charity, having donated an average of $40,000 from each of the last several races and a total amount over the years, just shy of $400,000.  This donation is the “profit” from the race, which is only made possible because of the generosity of sponsors and volunteers, plus the tireless work of the PRR First Half Race Committee.

Just in case you aren’t motivated enough by all this, there is a top notch seminar on offer November 1 (7:00 PM) at the Roundhouse Community Centre, with a great list of speakers talking about: Motivation for Winter Running.  The seminar is free and there is a chance to win up to 20 guaranteed entries (sorry, you still have to pay, but you don’t have to get in line!).

So, as a totally unbiased member of PRR and former Race Director, let me say if you want a great race experience, on November 4, get to your computer and get registered.  AND, if you don’t quite make it, well think about getting involved on the other side and be a volunteer!  You will be welcome and you may be surprised how satisfying it actually is, to be a part of making this race happen!

Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon and RITZ


Well, RITZ contributors, anyway.

We might as well start with me and get that out of the way.  I started and I finished.  Probably all you need to know about that!  Wasn’t my worst ever marathon, not even my worst Victoria, but it will find no place in my list of special events, except that it was a family affair with both my daughters running the half marathon.  I did learn you really should train for a marathon before you try to run it.

Herb Phillips came home in the marathon in a time of 3:06:06 taking M70-74 and for those who like age grading – first with a 90.38% performance.

Bob Dolphin was first in M80+ recording his 474th marathon, turning 83 just a few days ago and running his third marathon in something 4 or 5 weeks.  It would probably explain his time of 6:50:13.

BJ McHugh (not an actual contributor, but featured in RITZ) won F80+ with a time of 4:55:28 and she too is 83.  An amazing lady.  When I encountered her around 11km and asked how it was going, she just said: “Ask me when I’m done!”

Maurice Tarrant clocked 1:52:05 in the M80+ category of the Half

To my knowledge, no other RITZ contributors ran, but lots where around including Steve King (Race Announcer), Rob Reid (Chairman), Evan Fagan and Doug Alward.

The weather turned out amazingly better than predicted and certainly better than the competition in Portland where a friend asked if it was possible to get a duathlon score if you had to swim half the event.  We wuz lucky!

Congratulations to All!