Archive for November, 2011


RUNNING DOWN THE ROAD IN JAMAICA

11.30.2011

Now that we are in Jamaica and settled in our place near Negril, it seemed like time to remind myself what running in the early morning of a tropical climate is like.  Having lived in Malaysia for almost two years and having run 5-6 days per week, the feel of the cool early morning giving away rapidly to bright sunshine and heat that no Canadian boy is used to, certainly NOT in November, was reassuringly familiar.

Marathon Mile Marker

Monday morning, post-dawn but before full sun-rise I hit the road outside our home away from home. Traffic seemed relatively light but I made sure to run facing traffic.  Prior to this year, with the route change for the full marathon, runners used to pass right by the property on marathon day.  So, technically, I was actually running on part of the Reggae Marathon route, at least as used in the past.  The feel of the early morning air was silky soft.  Had I not known what would be coming in mere minutes, I might have considered it near perfect for an easy run in nothing but shorts and singlet.  OK, shorts, singlet and running shoes.  I am not a barefoot runner. And, since those cars, trucks and taxis weren’t really sharing the road, I did not have the pavement to run on as will be the case on marathon day, but rather the rough gravel.  And a hat.  Gotta’ do the hat.

I figured no more than 5K was the order of the day even if a great deal more was coming in just a few days.  Even though everyone seems very aware of the Reggae Marathon, I still got some strange looks as I trundled along toward Orange Bay.  About the time I got there and to the point where I planned to turn back, the sun had gone from being ‘up’ to really being up and I could surely feel the difference.  The water I carried with me was much appreciated as I noticed my singlet was now soaked and sticking to me like paint.  This wasn’t a bad thing, but a clear sign of a change of gears.  Being a bit old and decrepit, I tend to be stiff in the morning and when I had started out, I felt anything but ready to do a marathon in a few days.  By the time I turned back, all that had loosened and I was actually feeling good.  A marathon in about 5 days seemed much more likely and while I know what I actually looked like, I imagined myself like the young chap we had seen the night before, clearly out for a serious training run.  There I was ‘running nimbly, powerfully and smoothly; every step launching me elegantly into the next and my stride such that I looked not so much like I was running but more that I was actually floating or flying down the road – feet just barely skimming the ground’.  That was what I pictured.  Did I mention I enjoy a rich fantasy life? What I suspect the passers-by saw was an old man, not fat but really too heavy to be a runner, lumbering down the road with a distinct leftward lurch.  If there was any ‘glide’ to my stride it was because my feet really didn’t leave the ground by much, rather than that I was flying over it. Still, they would know that I was running. And, I knew that as the time went on, my pace and gait both improved.  As I neared the entrance to our resort, I checked my Garmin to see that my pace was actually considerably faster than my planned start and in place of the almost despair I felt in the first 1-2km, there was a solid sense of “everything is going to be OK” –Yeh, Mon.

The road marker in the picture is actually just outside the place we are staying.  Having had such a pleasant run Monday, I repeated it Wednesday – the day before everything really starts to take off beginning with package pickup.  That will be the last run before the big day.  Weather is looking good, relatively cool, some cloud, maybe a shower.

REGGAE MARATHON – PHASE II

11.27.2011

View from Rhodes Resort - Negril

Well, we are here in Negril.  It is only Sunday but already the road markings are out and the big sign to tell us where the package pick-up is to be found.  Unlike a lot of races, the Reggae Marathon seems to be pretty serious about distance marks on the roads.  Big and bold, they are.  So much so that the course having changed from past years, the old marks are still there.  We are staying at the Rhodes Hall Plantation Resort between Orange Bay and Green Island.  The full marathon used to come right past here in previous years and the mile markers are clearly visible.  Why do I tell you this useless bit of  information?  Read on.

Seeing those old mile markers, waaaaay out where we are, then seeing the turn-around markings well back of that point somehow makes me feel like this is a shorter, happier course!  And, no I really wasn’t out in the sun too long today!  As much as I know a marathon is 26.2 miles always and every time, there is something about splitting it into chewable pieces that is shockingly appealing.  I am pretty sure the shock is going to truly come as I complete the first ‘lap’ aka the Half Marathon and then just trip on by for another loop!  Strangely, the other thing that seems to make this route less distressing than your average marathon is that it starts in the ‘middle’.  First you run about 3 miles or 5km toward the town of Negril.  At the actual round-about, you turn back to the start/finish and when the 10K folk get there, they are done.  (Hmmmmm, wonder if I could still downgrade my entry?).  Half Marathoners stride bravely by the Finish for another 3 miles or so and once again, turn back to the Finish.  Naturally, the Full Marathon folk are tagging right along.  This really seems quite fine and if you are actually here, looking at the nice flat road with all the pretty fresh markings, you feel it will be good.  Now, here is where we who have signed on for the Full Marathon (Aaaah, surely they’d let me downgrade to the Half????) keep on to do that first 3 mile/5K and then the second, back past that every so inviting Finish (Wonder if they have ever thought about a Three-Quarter Marathon?) for another 3 miles or so.  I am pretty sure, the feeling of rounding the turn-about marker out there at around  23 miles is going to feel exceptionally fine and that it will be “all downhill” from there on.  Well, actually that is only a figure of speech as there really is neither up nor down on this course.

Tomorrow, I plan to find out what the running really feels like.  Easy 5K or so just to get the sense of it.

Winnipeg - 6:00am

So, here we are, but I just have to note that our travel plan took us through Winnipeg to connect to Montego Bay, Jamaica.  What a great way to go.  This photograph speaks for itself. 

Having been informed by Chris ‘That Runnin’ Guy’ Morales that Red Stripe does not count for carbo-loading, I have also partaken of cornmeal porridge, dumplings, boiled banana, rice and peas and it is only Sunday.  There was a bit of protein thrown in in the form of salt fish, ox tail and curried goat.

Stay tuned.  We will get to the running stuff eventually!

REGGAE MARATHON – PHASE I

11.23.2011

Well, OK, I guess Phase I of any event is really the training.  In my own case, there is also extensive planning and strategizing – most of which seems to go out the window come race day.  Gotta’ do something about that!

Reggae MarathonSo, after all that, what is Phase I then?  In the case of a destination marathon (or 10K, as the case may be), the first and a rather important step, is actually getting from where you are to where you need to be.  In this case, that would be Negril, Jamaica.  Of course, this can take some longer than others when you include the packing and all.  So many decisions, so much anticipation.  Chris Morales, aka That Runnin’ Guy says one singlet, one pair shorts, one bathing suit (maybe two), one toothbrush and one pair running shoes.  In his case that seems to be a flaming red pair of Puma Faas 500’s.  In my case it will be my sparkling new pair of Asics 2160’s (best running shoe for 2011 – Runners World) and the brand I’ve used for the last 26 years or so.  As far as travel is concerned, we are flying from Vancouver, but through Winnipeg.  Figured we might as well really create a contrast for weather!  Well, actually it was the cheapest option and we can’t fly direct from here anyway.

Since Judi, my wife, is participating in her very first destination event, I thought I should get her feelings on the whole matter as our travel looms near.  Here’s what she had to say about the whole thing.

Judi - Rotary Run

Judi at the Rotary Run 2011

Just two more days until Dan and I leave for Jamaica, land of sun, sea and the Reggae Marathon!  Not that I’ll be running the marathon – but I’ll be there at Negril with those marathoners at 5:15 in the very early morning of December 3rd, soaking up the buzz in the air, moving to the music, rubbing shoulders with the runners, checking my watch and my laces as I prepare for the start of the 10K.  I should make it clear that I’m not actually going to run the 10K – well, I may run bits of it from time to time – but walking is my preferred mode of locomotion and so much less threatening to my knees, ankles, quads and IT bands.  After the pasta party the night before, I will be fueled up for the challenge and by the end I’ll bask in the joy of accomplishment at the post race celebration – there are those who will scoff at my time, but they may secretly envy the condition of my knees, ankles, quads and IT bands!                        

Hmmm.  For a self-proclaimed non-runner, she sure has the lingo down!

Having not been so careful or caring with regard to knees, ankles, quads and IT bands over the years, it could be me she is talking about regarding the “secret envy”.  No, probably not.  I’ve never had any problem with my ankles.  Regular readers will certainly know that 2011 has not been a stellar year for my knees, well left knee to be precise.  A big problem has been that while the knee isn’t a show-stopper, it has limited effective training.  To be honest, with just about 10 days to go, I am still not totally certain about whether I will run the Full Marathon (that’s what I’m signed up for) or ease back to the Half.  I just ran 10K at what I think will be race pace and it felt fine, and I did do a half marathon less than a month ago, which was also fine.  The question really is, am I ready to go the rest of the way?  Speed is not the issue this time, just the distance.  This may wind up being the mystery part of the event.  I will decide before package pick-up on December 1!

For now it is get the packing finished, print those boarding passes and get us to the airport.  Reggae Marathon, here we come!

ANNOUNCING A NEW BLOG AND COMING GUEST – NANCY TINARI

11.21.2011
Nancy Tinari

Nancy Tinari - Olympian

We’re pleased and excited to see that Nancy Tinari has been moved by the coming 2012 Olympics to set up a blog celebrating that event and letting us peek into the world of elite athletes and Olympic hopefuls.  What you will see is her unvarnished training log as she prepared for the 1988 Olympics.  Personally, I expect is to get past the TV image of our top athletes to the real people, well one of them anyway, gutting it out for a world level performance on one or two specific days at one particular place – no do-overs, no cummulative record – everything on the line at one moment in time.

That is the first bit of good news.  The second is that Nancy has also agreed to write a guest post for Running in the Zone.  We are just working out the specific subject and timing, but stay tuned for some words of wisdom from a Seasoned Athlete who really earned her title and doubtless has something to say to all of us.

I THINK IT IS MY TURN TO CHRONICLE A RACE

11.19.2011

Reggae MarathonAbout this time last year I asked seasoned and elite senior athlete, Rod Waterlow, to tell us his impressions of preparing for and running the California International Marathon.  Which, by the way, is one of my personal favorite events.  Actually, that was probably part of my reason for asking Rod to report on his race, that and my belief that Rod had something to say.  OK, and a bit of guilt that I went off for a vacation and didn’t run CIM!

So, true confessions, I am off on another vacation and NOT running CIM this year either.  This time though, I AM running – in Jamaica in the Reggae Marathon.  If you don’t already know that, you are new to this blog site or just not paying attention!

This will be number 16 marathon and I am getting pretty excited.  In a way that excitement was the trigger that got me thinking I should chronicle my race in a series of smaller “progress report” type of posts.  Well, that and the photographs I know I will have posted by the time I’m done.  Talk about making the readers jealous!!  Both of them.  You will join me I am sure, in looking forward to  hearing my wife’s thoughts and even a word or two in her own right.  She has always been the cheering section when she has gone with me to destination events, but this time she has decided to see what it is all about and signed on for the 10K.  Something for everybody at the Reggae Marathon!

This blog is for ‘seasoned athletes’.  That is it.  Some of our contributors are still top notch competitors and performers, but as inspirational as their efforts and accomplishments may be, that is not what this is about.  It is all about ‘seasoned’ athletes getting out there and doing.  Judi – my wife – used to run a bit.  She is an avid walker.  These days that means regular walking with our running group the Semiahmoo Sunrunners.  The Sunrunners go a step beyond most clubs that ‘welcome’ walkers, but then kind of leave them to follow along behind the runners.  We have a very avid and active walking group, and trust me – by walking they really don’t mean going for a stroll.  They have their own days and programs and equal status in the club.  So, when I say Judi is walking the Reggae Marathon 10K, I don’t think she will just be meandering along the Norman Manley Blvd.

Dan and Judi ready for Jamaica

Team "Soon Cummings"

Things are heating up around the big event and I just learned about a group of Canadian women who are headed for Negril (again) – the Running Girlz – about 20 of them.  A couple of other group names popped up shortly after.  Judi and I figured we should be a team or mini-group, and working off a well known saying in Jamaica and the family name, we have dubbed ourselves the “Soon Cummings“.  For those who don’t know, a common Jamaican response to questions involving an element of time is “soon come”.

I am personally looking forward to meeting a lot of people who I have come to ‘know’ through the blogs and a lot of e-mails.  Although it is somewhat of an aside, this digital world is truly something to behold.  Only a few years ago this kind of effectively instant interaction would been unthinkable.  Now, we just jump on our computers or smart phones and we are in touch with people half way around the world.  That came home to me as I was communicating with That Runnin’ Guy (Chris Morales) about the Reggae Marathon and at the same time working on family genealogy (including a possible link to north-eastern Jamaica).  I have my GGGrandfather’s discharge papers from the British military which is the family link to Jamaica via one of his postings.  On the communications story, he was mustered out in Canada on a medical disability in 1853, but these documents show that once the process started, the physical documents were sent back to England.  Certain questions were prepared by the chief medical officer for administration to Sgt Hugh Cumming and sent back to Canada.  His commander duly asked the questions and recorded the responses, returning said documents to Britain where they were given final approval and sent back to Canada once again.  It all appears quite routine, but the process took months as those papers sailed their way back and forth between Canada and England.  Months.  Today alone, I had three exchanges with officials in Jamaica on a couple of organizational questions.  No problem.  Naturally, we have our electronic tickets for our flights, hotel reservations etc, etc.  And then, of course, you are reading this and looking at the photograph I took and edited just this morning.  What a difference!

But, back to the Reggae Marathon!  Travel plans are pretty well done, other than some fine details.  Packing hasn’t started yet, not for me anyway.  Training continues although the hard part is done and we are either ready or we aren’t.  Attitudes are adjusted to the reality of the present situation regarding levels of training.  This will be a totally fun destination event for a couple of ‘Seasoned Athletes’!  Follow us as we regular folk experience something completely different and report our thoughts and impressions leading up to and doing the marathon and 10K.  Maybe, if we do it right, it will encourage others to give such a thing a try.

UP NEXT- THE REGGAE MARATHON

11.10.2011
Sunshine running

Sun Running

You didn’t think, being a regular guest blogger and registrant, that I wasn’t going to post about the Reggae Marathon did you?  Of course you didn’t.

As I write, the big day is only 24 days away.  Until just a couple of days ago I wasn’t at all sure if I would be able to run.  Nagging injury to my knee has been keeping me on the edge.  Oh, I registered for the race some time ago.  I even registered for the Full Marathon with the idea that it would be inspirational, but with fingers crossed a little, knowing I could drop down to the half or even the 10K should it be necessary.  Well, if you read the last post here, you will know I finished a half marathon on November 6.  I have been working out more on an elliptical trainer than on the road and it seems to have been working.  The half went fine as far as the knee is concerned and the workout has helped with the fitness while the knee getsbetter.  I am pretty sure that I am going to spend 3 or 4 hours “ellipticating” rather than running, as my last long slow distance run.  My true goal for Negril is to finish and have some fun.  My other goal for Negril is to see myself come off a full albeit “easy” marathon, ready for a year of running in 2012.

Working indoors

Working it in the Gym

As I have worked with “That Runnin’ Guy” who is the regular Reggae Marathon blogger we have had some great exchanges about running in general, but many other things including past history in Jamaica.  He was born there and mine was very brief, although I have strong personal links through old friends and maybe even a genealogical link through, let me see, my Great Grand Uncle who may have been born there during his father’s posting with the British Royal Regiment of Artillery in the 1840’s.

But, what about the Reggae Marathon?  Well, now that the Lad and Dad Half Marathon Challenge is in the record books, the focus is on Negril.  I have done one marathon in the tropics (Maui– 2008) and will not be looking for a Boston Qualifying time.  No, I will be looking for a great experience with great people, both our hosts and the other visitors like us.  This has become such a great idea that my wife has decided she wants to register for the 10K.  This is something new for her, but I’m on it.  Let’s face it, if I do the full marathon, she is going to have plenty of time to finish the 10K, get cleaned up, enjoy the coco-nut water and maybe even a Red Stripe and still have time to take my picture as I finish!  Hmm, that leaves the question of who will take her picture.  I’m sure that can be arranged somehow!

Even though I’ve been on the business end of “Ask Dan” through the blog, I surely don’t know everything about the Reggae Marathon and
only just learned about Bob’s Mile.  I have always loved the music of Bob Marley (who doesn’t?) so this is going to be a special treat.  That final mile with the music of Bob Marley singing us in will be something else.

Young Cummings at Negril 1969

Judi and Dan at Negril in 1969

Although it has nothing directly to do with the running events, this all started when I posted a photo of Judi (my wife) and me on the Negril beach in 1969.  The more I study the Reggae Marathon web site and Google Earth, the more I am convinced that we may well have been standing just off the Start/Finish area of the race at Long Bay Beach Park.  We intend to re-enact that day in 1969 and try to take the photo in much the same location.  Things might have changed a bit.  Stay tuned for the post-race report.

Assuming all goes as planned, this will be my 16th marathon.  I am hoping it won’t be the last, but as a ‘Seasoned Athlete’ you have to always accept that it could be the case.  Well, if it were to be the case, it would be a great way to finish.  Of course, that is NOT my plan.   If you go back and look at a recent post entitled “Planning is the Answer”, you will understand.  Although it isn’t possible in the short term, there are five specific marathons named there that I want to do if I can.  And then, with 70 approaching, well Boston will give me another 15 minutes.  Aah such is the way of the “Seasoned Athlete” – never ready to say quit as long as the will is there.  Of course, if Boston is going to go back on my “To Do” list I’m going to have to pick it up a bit.  That said, I can start trying in less than two years and only have to go just a titch faster than I ran less than 18 months ago.  Well, never mind that now!  The Reggae Marathon and a whole lot of fun is the only thing on the agenda.

We decided to take a week in Jamaica before the race to acclimatize a bit, and then naturally, a week after to recover.  Late November in Vancouver is not wonderful.  I think things in Jamaica will be much more pleasant climate-wise.  Never one to miss out on any part of enjoying my races, I love to research the event and the route and the weather.  Nobody will tell you that Jamaica isn’t warm.  I mean if it wasn’t, why would we all be so excited to go there and run?  On the other hand, with just a little luck it won’t be crazy hot either.  OK, that is a relative term, but I lived in Malaysia for a couple of years and have spent time in places like Thailand, Singapore and Australia (summer).  I actually like running in warm weather.  The trick is running smart.  Whatever conditions are on race day, whether unusually cool or unusually warm, they will be what they are.  Nobody and no amount of wishing can change that.  What you can do is act accordingly and make the best of what you find.  Maybe it is my age and aching joints, but I now much prefer summer running to winter.  Sweat is good as long as you keep properly hydrated with water and electrolytes and the Reggae Marathon has a special plastic pouch delivery system that ensures you actually get to consume the hydration products rather than spilling half on the ground as is so often the case.  And, when you are all done, they have thoughtfully provided a whole ocean in which to cool off, only steps from the finish.

I have run a few races, not always full marathons, where the spectators are into it and the organizers make sure there are lots of bands or music or something to distract you from what you are doing and spur you on at the same time.  I understand that the Reggae Marathon is second to none on this count too.  I mean, how could you not keep going with a reggae beat to take you along those roads?  With the loop nature of the course, especially the full marathon, you even get to go past groups you really like more than once.  How many times have I passed a great musical group and realized how they spurred my effort and yet in no time they would be behind me, never to be heard again?

We relatively recently moved and I joined a new running club, the Semiahmoo Sunrunners.  In honour of this fact and the Reggae Marathon, I have just purchased my very first piece of club gear, a singlet, to run the marathon in and stay cool while looking cool too.  (Can an almost 67
year-old guy look cool?  Is that possible? Not sure, but if it is possible, then I WILL look cool in my new Sunrunner Singlet!  Pretty appropriate
eh, SUN runner, get it??)

Well, time to get off for a little more training.  A marathon is a long way no matter what your strategy for pace may be.  At the moment, the plan is meant to be similar to the one I used for Maui.  Run the first half in a reasonable way and then as the sun comes up and it begins to warm, cut back to a much easier pace and enjoy everything there is to see and do on the course.

FAMILY FUN

11.07.2011
All three event medals

Half Marathon Challenge - Ottawa 2001, Victoria 2007, Boundary Bay 2011

For something like ten years now we have been working on a family running project.  It began in 2001 in Ottawa, where quite by accident, I ran a half marathon with our oldest daughter, Danielle, when I was twice her age.  It was only afterwards that I realized the age thing.  We thought that was kind of neat.

Danielle and Dan - Ottawa, May 2001

I decided it was something to see if we couldn’t keep the trend going.  It took until 2007 (at the Victoria Marathon) for the next family double to come around.  Our second daughter, Janna, and I hit the spot where I was twice her age.  This year, and only in the last month or so, our third child and number one son, Cameron, rolled into the magic age combination where my age is double his.  We knew it was coming and had originally thought the ideal place for the Lad and Dad Half Marathon Challenge would be again at the Victoria Marathon Weekend.  He lives in Victoria and the Marathon Weekend has been an event in which from one to three of has run something since the year 2000.  That was not to be – something about being Best Man at a friend’s wedding on the Saturday night and being reluctant to run a half marathon the next morning.

Dan and Janna - Victoria, October 2007

After searching the options and travel issues and the fact that if we were going to be formal about our age ratio being half, we only had October through December to get it done.  Cam’s birthday is very early October and mine is very early January.  After due consideration, the Boundary Bay Moustache Marathon was the event.  There were lots of reasons, but this was his very first half marathon and the Moustache (Half) Marathon was in a great location and above all it was a flat and ‘easy’ course, if there is such a thing on your first half marathon.

Everything was agreed.  Registrations were registered.  Ferry schedules checked and the weather forecast checked repeatedly.  That latter item didn’t look so good early in the week, but on race day it was cool and crisp and the sun was with us most of the way.

Finish of Moustache (Half) Marathon

Cam and Dan Finish the Moustache Half Nov 6, 2011

From the beginning, we agreed this was not a race.  We would do it together, start to finish.  There were many good reasons for the decision, none of which matter here.  In truth, two major achievements came out of this event.  Cam completed his very first half marathon.  No matter whether he ever does another one or if he gets excited about the distance and smokes this PB sometime in the future, the First is the First.  The other achievement was completing the family project of each of the kids running with me in a half marathon when half my age.  It was always just about fun regardless of who reached the finish first and it was rather fitting that we decided that Cam and I would get there together.

It was super special for me to run with all three and especially to ‘finish’ the challenge today with Cam who, while he runs some, races very little and has never even approached the distance of a half marathon.  I want to thank all three kids for joining me in enjoying and celebrating running together and as part of our individual lives.  These three half marathons aren’t the only events we have done together.  I have run various races (from 5K’s to full marathons) with all three, including Cam, since they were in their teens.  We all have to thank our #1 Cheerleader, Judi – my wife and their Mom.  She is always there, lately with her cow-bell and patented ‘WooWoo’s’.  Yes, patented – lots of people have a version of the ‘woo’, but once you hear Judi, you will know who is Woo’ing!  She is there in the rain and cold and in the heat for any and all of us, and especially for me.

Our son-in-law, Greg, has joined the team, but except that year in Ottawa where he ran the 10K, the year when Danielle and I started this crazy tradition with the half marathons, Greg has gone over to the Tri-side.  We have cheered him on, but none of the rest of us are triathletes.  Well, until this year when it seems Danielle has tried her first Tri.  Is it a trend?  Will we all follow Greg to something new?  At this point, I feel if I were to do so, it would spoil the fun as I would likely drown in the first event.  I like to feel that would take the shine off it for everyone, but that is just my opinion.

Seriously, this is an unabashedly personal post, but maybe it will trigger some great family running ideas for others.  I do know I am not the only “Seasoned Athlete” that gets a kick out of running with the kids. The most important thing to remember is that it is OK if they beat you.  I don’t mean let them win, I mean that most probably it is inevitable that at some point the young’uns are gonna’ get you.  It is OK!  If this has tweaked your interest, feel free to go right out and challenge your kids (or parent(s)) to do something with you that has meaning.  And let me know if you do, and even how it goes.

PLANNING IS THE ANSWER!

11.03.2011

Dan Cumming - Seasoned Athlete

Really?  What is the question?  I think the question is something along the lines of “How do I keep on doing this thing called running?”. 

It isn’t even necessarily about being a seasoned athlete.  All runners need to plan if they have goals and aspirations, whether the goal is an Olympic berth in London or just continuing to do what we all love.  This has come to mind because one thought keeps hitting me.  How am I going to continue running, as I see injuries and reduced resilience as part of my future?  I’m not planning to be injured, but if I don’t respect the resilience issue, I may just as well plan for injury because it IS going to happen.

I guess I should start by apologizing for making this a personal story, but in trying to make general points without lecturing like some kind of expert (which I’m not), using my own situation as example seems the most effective way to do that.  So, even though the commentary may be about me and my particular situation at this point in time, do take the time to look for the underlying principles.

Regardless of age or ability, if you want to race effectively you really do need to plan.  Last year I ran 19 events and even more “races” because a couple of those were multiple-leg relay events.  For 2011, I did start with a plan. It was fairly simple.  Train for Eugene Marathon (May 1).  Do no other racing prior to Eugene.  Qualify for Boston.  I did have other things in the mix for later, but this was the top priority. 

Eugene Marathon - OK to just about this point.

It is now late November.  I did run Eugene in May.  I have only run one other serious race and one fun event since then, both relatively poorly.  I have two more races scheduled between now and December 31.  Those two are not intended to be anything but experiences.  Five races in 2011.  Nineteen (or 23) in 2010 versus Five.  Was that the plan for 2011?  Hardly.

What happened?  As usual, something unplanned.  We left our normal environs for a long vacation with old friends in the latter part of 2010.  Although I managed some runs in far places, there was no racing.  Upon return I put my Boston plan into action.  NO RACES: just training to a plan.  I even joined a clinic at Forerunnersin Vancouver, to make sure I was doing the right

Forerunners Marathon Clinic Pace Group

things at the right time.  So far, so good.  When I got to about mid-February and a long slow run of about 25km I was going along happily and easily when I stepped in a depression not worthy of being called a pot-hole.  I felt my knee twist.  Hmmm??  Nothing too major apparently, so kept going.  Next day it was not so good.  I rested it for a few days but went back for the next long run.  Well, without a boring step by step account of the ensuing weeks, I pretty much limped from long run to long run.  It was just good enough to be able to manage, but not good enough to be getting the total distance or quality training required to achieve my Boston goal.  Guess I knew it. 

When I did get to Eugene I had adjusted my race plan to running as well as I could and let the chips fall as they may.  (The adjustment I should have made was staying home.)  I was certain a Boston Qualifier was not in the cards but still thought (fantasized) a decent performance could be.  The first 10-11kms were at the pace I had set as my target.  By then though, it was clear I could either keep going and likely quit before half way, OR really back off and finish.  I took the latter course.  It was doubly disappointing because the day could not have been much better for running and the course is one of my favorites.

I spent much of the summer not running at all and then taking a very slow path back with a 27km trail race in September as my goal.  Under the circumstances, that was a reasonable plan and I was fairly rigorous about sticking to it.  Even still, I was not pushing the running.  The Frosty Mountain Endurance Run is 27km in length with a vertical of 3800 ft.  Everything was proceeding nicely until, with only about 300m to flat ground at the end, I twisted the same knee again.  What really hurt was that I wasn’t even running at the time.  Back to the drawing board!

Well, it turned out the twist wasn’t as bad as it seemed at the moment, and things are going OK once again on combining rest, repair and training.  In less than a week from the time of writing I intend to complete our family challenge where I run a half marathon with each kid when he or she is half my age.  Our son is the last of the three and the Lad and Dad Half Marathon Challenge takes place at the Boundary Bay Moustache Marathon on November 6.  There WILL be a post on this event. 

All going well, the next and last race for 2011 is the Reggae Marathon December 3rd in Negril, Jamaica (distance still to be decided from among the full, half and 10K options).  I do have a plan of attack which depends on whether or not I am as repaired and prepared as I think I am.  No matter what, just finish it and have fun.  Enjoy the sweet reggae music at every mile and the Red Stripe at the finish.  I can also assure readers there will be reports and photographs from that race.

So, what is this planning thing about?  Seems like I claimed to have a plan for 2011 but that it went very sideways.  All true. In fact, while I did actually and properly have a plan I did not react well when it clearly went off the rails.  Knowing what you will do if things take a wrong turn, is part of a sound plan. 

All of this has caused me to really think about where I go from here.  That, and a bunch of events that are already rearing their heads for 2012.  It also got me thinking in general terms, with me just as the example. While I am not ready to admit I intend to hang up the running shoes – not even the racing flats, I am beginning to see that if I don’t act appropriately I may not actually have a choice. 

So, here I sit, my wounded knee getting better, but still posing questions.  I have two modestly challenging races (because of distance not speed) still scheduled for this year.  I am hoping I will be able to do them while continuing to heal and strengthen.  BUT, just in the last short while I have recognized the crazy list of things I WANT to do in 2012 and have also just seen some interesting opportunities arise.  Don’t we all do this?  Here is my personal dilemma:

  1. The BMO Vancouver International Marathon has announced a shiny new course for 2012!  It even starts in

    Vancouver Finish 1988

    the neighbourhood where I grew up. My first and best marathon was Vancouver in 1988. I have run Vancouver a total of four times on two different courses. The new route looks fantastic and has my attention, especially because it would mean running it on a third course.  

  2. BUT,Eugene is a favorite race and it sort of owes me something, or maybe I owe it something. Eugene is the week before Vancouver, so they might as well be the same day for all practical purposes.
  3. I just learned I have an opportunity to run Hood to Coast 2012 and there is just nothing that really compares. This would be my seventh time (first in 1987).
  4. For years I have been eyeing the Loch Ness Marathon (how great would it be to run the marathon AND see Nessie? – just guessing, but would probably happen sometime after 20 miles!). I am also very interested in genealogy and that is pretty much where the family roots are. What a great two-fer! Three-fer if Nessie made an appearance.
  5. And then, a bunch of people I am associated with are thinking we should go to New York next year. Last I checked that is still just a marathon – no other options.
  6. I am intrigued by the Winthrop Marathon which is in the late summer.
  7. None of this includes the local series races which accounted for a goodly portion of my 2010 races.
  8. Also none of this includes the demands on my time as Race Director of the Rotary Run Half Marathon, Team Relay and 5K. At least I won’t be running in that one!
  9. Oh yes, then there is the Wreck Beach Bare Buns Run (5K). While I have two team golds, I really want an individual medal. Came sooooo close this year, but lack of training put me fourth. You can see then, that I really must do that one in 2012.

So many races, so little me. I suspect others my age can relate pretty strongly (OK, maybe not to the Bare Buns Run, but all the rest). Even five years ago, I felt none of this urgency. My sad story of 2011 tells me two things: 1) a wrong step and 2012 could be much the same, and b) if I don’t take a practical approach, not only will I not be able to do ALL these races, I may not wind up doing ANY.

I am not about to tell you what I AM going to do because I don’t know right now. I do know I can’t do them all. Priority and practicality become the guiding concepts. The outcomes (health and wellness, not finish place or time) of the Moustache (Half)Marathon and Reggae Marathon will set the stage for my personal choices.

Regardless of specific outcomes, perhaps the first question should run along the lines of, “If I could only do one event, which one would it be?” In these particular examples there are a number of quite conflicting events so that choosing one would take another out of the mix entirely. For instance, to choose either Eugene or Vancouver eliminates the other. Once you begin to make such choices you may also simplify matters for yourself. And, once you do choose something important you should recognize that you have also chosen the training period and program, as well as the necessary recovery post-race. Of course, some other races of the right distance and timing will work nicely as training for your target race, so it isn’t necessarily an ‘either-or’ situation. For instance, if you have tagged a marathon or half marathon as your primary target you can use shorter races as your “speed work”.  In fact, the ever amazing Ed Whitlock claims he does no speed drills, just lets his races serve that purpose. It is pretty hard to argue with his level of success!

Some folks close to me are suggesting I should maybe forget marathons.  One of them is actually a runner. The truth is that with my particular physical limitations, shorter harder distances and related training are more taxing and risk filled than the longer distances. Rock and a hard place? Maybe, but proper consideration is definitely part of any plan. Of course, what I am writing is personal because I know the story pretty well, but the point or lesson is meant to be general with me as a specific example.

When you look at my list of events there are five marathons. Not being a Marathon Maniac, I wouldn’t do all five even if I could. The problem is, I want to and there is this urgency based on the question of how many more do I have in me. Reminds me of a summer job as a carpenter’s assistant and his admonition to: “Hammer faster, we’re running out of nails!” When I look at ‘my’ 2012, there are two events that stand out and assuming good health, they do not conflict. Wow, progress on the plan! Pencil those two in and everything that must go before and after, then see what that leaves for options.

A major question could also be which events complement one another regarding both timing and training goals. Racing can be part of training as long as the races are defined by the plan rather than letting the plan be defined by the races.

Regardless of age, racing too much will catch up to you at some point. Every person should have an idea of his or her limits. It won’t be the same for everyone, which is why I am not even going to try to suggest guidelines. Accepting that a plan will facilitate a great season gets you half way to that season!

If there is anything to learn here it must be that each individual should, either alone or in consultation with a trusted mentor or coach, determine what is right for her or for him and make that into a Plan for the year. Flexibility is a key component of reacting to circumstances. For instance, changing out one race for another if some crazy good opportunity pops up. Pride should be held in severe restraint when injury comes along and even regarding the previously mentioned ‘crazy good opportunity’. If you only have room for ONE marathon say, then when a fantastic new one POPS INTO the Plan, the original one needs to POP OUT. The older we get, the less we should be trying to ‘just run though’ an injury (if that truly works at any age). Somewhere in every plan should be a special tool called Plan B, or what to do when Plan A goes sideways. As we become more and more ‘seasoned’ the wise will make their most important choices for racing and accept that some things cannot be included. I know a fair number of people who will do almost a two year plan where maybe in one of the years a few longer races (marathons or half marathons) will be the backbone of the program, with shorter races included as part of the training needed for the primary 2-4 races. Then, in the next year, the long races may be removed entirely in favor of a series challenge where you must run a number of specific events within the series in order to have an official score. Where I live on Canada’s West Coast, the weather is so mild that there really isn’t an off-season. Many runners will brave even severe conditions to have a run, but that is not racing. In the Vancouver area you can race year-round. The down-side of that great climate is the no rest for the wicked aspect. It is up to the individual to build his or her own recovery phases into the running program.

My very busy 2010 running season was a real eye-opener for me. I actually did plan some key elements into the year of running. What I didn’t do was avoid doing everything else that came along. I planned on a marathon in May (Eugene), a Half in June, another Half in August (newly named in memory of an old friend), the Hood to Coast Relay and the Frosty Mountain Run, plus the Victoria Marathon. What I didn’t originally plan on was competing in two running series in our area, each requiring 5 races to score. Fortunately, some of the races I did were in both series, so I think I did about 7 races to amass my 10 ‘qualifiers’. In the end, 2010 was a very good year for my running stats, at least the first half or so of the year.

The Young and the Rest of Us - Hood to Coast 2010

If I look critically at the whole year, Hood to Coast in August was probably where I peaked out (no pun intended).  By the time I got to the marathon at Victoria I had almost nothing left.  It turned out I did 19 races in 8 months, several of those long and hard.  Can you see the error here?  I sure can.  Some might be able to handle that but I should have known that I couldn’t.  The verdict: too many hard races and not enough rest and recovery.  Perhaps one reason that Eugene went so well was that up to that point, my racing was fully complementary to my training for that marathon.    

Am I the only one that foolish?  Don’t answer that.  I prefer to cling to my own opinion that I am not. When things are going well we seldom see the potential dangers ahead.  It is hard to balance caution with cowardice – aka not pushing when you should. The same is true for bravery and foolishness.  And maybe to close this out we can take a hint from this lyric in “The Gambler”: “You gotta’ know when to hold ‘em; know when to fold ‘em; know when to walk away, and know when to run.”