Archive for October, 2012



Well, it has a busy time these last two weeks or so and there have been a few running related things taking up all the editor’s time, thus a gap in posting.

The most recent was the Peace Arch Hospital Foundation Great Pumpkin Walk/Run, which happened on Sunday October 21. Despite some light precipitation in the early hours, by the time we finished the sun was at least peeking through and making things generally pleasant.  The event itself was a great success with nearly 200 more participants registered than there were in 2011. Over 925 people registered, all with just two feet. There were also a good many with four feet, and most of them in costume, to boot!  The Foundation had set a fund raising goal for 2012 of $75,000 and at time of reporting more than $80,000 has been realized and still counting!

The whole event took on the feel of a party and with all the costumes, kids zone entertainment and general good times it seemed like everyone enjoyed the experience. Organizers made things easy with a 1K event as well as the 5K walk and 5K run.  Rob Durant clocked a pretty impressive time of 18:10 over the challenging White Rock route which starts at the Hospital and descends toward the beach area (doesn’t go all the way down, but a good part of it). That is always fun, but THEN what goes down, must come up and that is when the ‘fun’ part of the “Fun Run Walk” event begins. The event is not actually timed, but for those who care, a clock is running.  It is obviously not too hard to check out the first finisher and that was Rob.

Daughter and Dad do Victoria Half - photo by Brightroom

So, that has kept this editor pretty busy for the last while, but particularly the last week looking after Technical Race Director duties.

Prior to this, was the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon Weekend. I opted for the Half rather than Full Marathon. I believe that since 2000, this is definitely the 9th and possibly 10th time I have done either the full or half marathon.  Over those years it has become a family event with at least two of the running Cummings taking part most years.  This was no exception, as I had the pleasure of once again running with daughter Janna.  And, when I say ‘with’ I mean with.  Some years ago as she was getting faster and I was getting slower we stopped running together other than in the sense of ‘same event – same day’.  This time, she felt that as she was just getting over a fairly nasty cold, the better part of valour might be not to run at all.  By race day she kind of wanted to run, but not at her usual pace.  I suggested we run together, as my race pace is now a pretty easy training pace for her.  She agreed. It was great fun and one of the pleasures that comes from running, being able to run with your kids or good friends.  (Ed Note: We ran to the 10K mat together, but I could tell that she was now feeling pretty good and maybe just a wee bit constrained by the ‘Old Man’s’ pace.  I suggested I wasn’t prepared to run any faster and that if she wanted to pick it up, that would be quite fine.  A few minutes later, I could no longer see her.  Well, it was fun while it lasted!)

I do have to say that this event was a personal success on many levels and one of those things you want to share.  Of course, I have already talked about how great it was to run with Janna. On top of that, I hit a recent PB that while not impressive to many, pleased me no end.  I spent most of last year nursing an injury and much of this year being very cautious as I ramped things up again. That said, I had great hopes for the new and potentially fast course at the BMO Vancouver Marathon Half, but was only able to score a chip time of 2:11:09. The Scotiabank Half was even slower, but that didn’t bother me too much as I had just completed a full marthon a couple of weeks before and just felt tired. So, here I was at Victoria where the course is more challenging than the new Vancouver route (in my opinion anyway).  I had begun to despair, just a little, that I would ever again see a time south of 2:10. I was thrilled to see the time on my Garmin, verified later by the official finish time, of 2:09:30!  Being one who really likes to get the most out his races, I later began examining the entrails of the race (that means I downloaded my Garmin recorded mile splits). A bigger thrill popped out of those stats when I realized that I had run an extremely even pace throughout the race and even had a final mile split that was faster than the first mile.  Well, OK, I’ll that was partly because of the crowd at the start and a simple inability to go any faster for the first while.  Interestingly, had you asked me if my last mile was faster or slower, I would surely have said ‘much slower’.  What it was, was much harder but that was because after 12 miles of racing, I was pushing that last mile through at a steady pace, equal to pretty much what I had done from the start.  Wow!  For me, that is pretty unusual.  For a guy who knows a lot of the theories and even coaches other people to control the early pace and more or less do what I did in Victoria this year, I am NOT so good at doing it.  Maybe it was Janna being with me for the first 10K.  Maybe, but I was really the one setting the pace while we were together.  She was running how I wanted to run.  Perhaps the distraction of having her with me helped, or maybe the awareness that if I let her lead, I would probably go too fast.  Of course, that doesn’t really explain what happened over the other 11K after we parted company.  Well, whatever the answer, I was more than pleased with the result, and looking ahead to repeating the process in future events.

Future events?  What future events?  Well, not counting some local races I am still pondering, there is the Reggae (Half) Marathon in December.  Yep, I’m going back to see if I can actually get myself to the start line more or less on time and actually run the race for which I registered – unlike last year.  And then there are the possible marathons that are looming.  You see, having had such a good outcome in Victoria, my mind has turned back to Boston and qualifying.  I am moving in on a new age group (70-74) and therefore a new qualifying time – one I was pretty near, not so long ago.  You see, just because of the way the rules work and when my birthday falls, as early as this time next year I could qualify for Boston 2015.  Say what?!  Never mind the details.  That is how it would work.

With that in mind, I have decided I should test the possibility next Spring. In just a few days I will be starting a new marathon clinic at Forerunners, as a pace leader.  Of course, we will first prepare people for the First Half Half Marathon inFebruary of 2013 (Registration is Nov 1 – Early), then continuing on toward a Spring marathon, Vancouver or one of the several others falling around the same time. I have resolved that with injury apparently behind me, I will train very seriously and diligently toward that Spring Marathon. The plan will be to see if I can put myself into the 4:30 or faster range.  The ultimate target will be 4:25, but for now it seems important to determine if I can get into the range where I have run four marathons in quite recent times. The closest I’ve been was the Eugene Marathon in 2010 where I went 4:28:15 (with an unplanned potty-stop).  My run time (good old Garmin) was 4:27:06 – tantalizingly close.  For now, the goal is just getting into the ballpark at my present age.  My last two marathons (one with injury, the other with heat induced cramps) were well over five hours.  They do not point in the right direction at all.  IF a time next year indicates there is hope, I guess anybody can see where this will be going.

Why does the reader need to know all this detail about what this blog editor is planning?  Well, maybe because it is a lesson in how we experience our running as the challenges of time and stress wear on performance.  Also, because my own personal recent ‘triumph’ says it is still possible to fight back from difficulty and/or improve performance and skill (the even pacing part).

The last thing I want to mention is that while much of the foregoing was happening, my wife was in Spain walking the Camino pilgrim trail. I say this because el Camino is just 800km and she and her companions did it in 33 days of walking.  I consider that a pretty athletic undertaking, and so did Steve King who (knowing the story, because I told him) shared the progress of the group as he announced my crossing of the finish at Victoria!  And he told everyone I would be writing about the event on the blog and to check it out. So, I wish to announce that in the very near future Seasoned Athlete, Judi Cumming, will be providing a guest blog piece describing what it is like to train for and then walk 800km.  Stay tuned!



As I crossed the finish line at the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon (Half – in my case) I once again heard the unmistakeable voice of Running in the Zone co-editor, Steve King. And (although I only realized it later), among the unmistakeable things he said was that I would surely be blogging about the race and that ‘YOU’ should come read it! Well, what could I do but start writing?

Why did I title this piece as I did? At least four reasons, me being one of them, but let’s start elsewhere.

In fact, lets not even start in Victoria.  Nope, let’s start in Chicago.  Afterall, their race did start earlier in the day than Victoria. It took me a little while and some borrowed technology to track this info down, but I was thrilled to learn that blog contributor, Rod Waterlow (“Never Too Late To Be Great“) had overcome a fairly severe injury to take first place in the M75-79 Chicago Marathon with a not too shabby time of 3:57:46!

I run with Rod in a Forerunners training clinic and am known to share a beverage with Rod from time to time. Because of this I have known the severity of his injury and watched first as he sought and received treatment, then proceeded through the always frustratingly slow rehab period. I was impressed with both his patience and perserverence as he slowly made his way back.  I think I can say that most of us ‘seasoned’ athletes aren’t generally renowned for our patience.  I think most of us fear that time will overtake us before we can complete a rehabilitative program and we won’t get back to where we were. In truth it is pretty much the only way (patience, that is) we CAN get back to our former form or at least something reasonably similar. Working with clinic coach, Carey Nelson, Rod took his time in preparing for Chicago. Let me just say that it was a delicate balance between recovery and effective training.  Apparently it was well done. Rod will doubtless be very pleased with his result, but not necessarily surprised.  Like most good athletes, Rod knew the win was possible if he could go ‘sub-four’. What he didn’t know, even when I last saw him, was whether or not he could, at this point, do the marathon under four hours. He could. He did.

It was a great pleasure while at the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon Expo to run into BJ McHugh, octogenarian runner extraordinaire, and to learn she would be running the Half Marathon, as would I.  Sadly, I must admit my next thought was something along the lines of, “Damn, I hope she doesn’t beat me!”  Well, let me put your mind at rest, I did manage to scrape in a wee bit ahead of this World Record holding lady.  Oh, you say your mind was not all that much disturbed?  OK, then maybe it was my mind that needed to be put to rest. At the age of 84, BJ turned in a very commendable half marathon time of 2:22:52 (another World Single Age Record).  Unfortunately, I did not see her on the course at all. Generally, she is asked to start with the elites, because she is an elite in her own right. That means I will always start somewhere behind her and when I do run faster than her, she will often drift back by me, which gives us a chance to have at least a few words. Not this time.  Or maybe I just missed her.  There is a very funny bit in her book “My Road to Rome“, where she was an invited runner at the Rome Marathon and given a front line starting position with the other elites (the young’uns).  Anyone who knows or has even seen BJ McHugh will know that she is a somewhat diminuitive lady with regard to physical stature.  In her book, she describes her fear of being trampled by younger faster ahtletes, once the gun went.  She had met all the true elite runners and they all loved having her in their midst. It wasn’t them, but rather the ‘almost elite’ runners who would come just behind and be gunning for a fast start.  I am pleased to report that the trampling did not happen, but as a read it is still well worth the time. Oh, did I mention she also won her category here in Victoria?  She did.

OK, so that brings us to me. It has been some time since I have been running in a condition that I consider to be ‘whole’. My original injury happened frustratingly innocently in February of 2011 during a long training run, but then I tried to ‘run through it’.  Uh huh, and you know how that sometimes goes.  I had a very good running year in 2010, busy too.  In any case, because of a major trip which had been planned for a couple of years, the 2010 year of competition came to an end at the Victoria Marathon Weekend (where I did the full marathon), just before we departed with very old friends for our trip.  Even though it had been a good year, it had not been a good half marathon year. At the 2010 Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon I made a fabulous (for me) start but fell victim of a minor (though painful at the time) hamstring at about 10K.  Recovery was fairly rapid, but the next Half was done while still taking it easy to come back to form and was pretty slow.  It was actually done to honour old running friend and role model, Willis Greenaway, at an event named for him. So, that meant it had been 2009 when I had last done a half marathon under 2:10.

Like many of us, I think, as we age and experience long stretches where things aren’t 100%, a small seed of doubt left me wondering if I would actually ever get my time below 2:10 again. I had enjoyed a good race in the BMO Vancouver (Half) Marathon, but even on what should be a fast course, I had only recorded a time of 2:11:09.  I was aware that I had trained with some reservation and caution, but I think I still anticipated a better outcome. Really, don’t we all kind of do that? So, after a strange summer of training and racing, it was with some uncertainty that I marched to the start of the half marathon just yesterday.  Could I turn in the result I wanted?  – Essentially anything under 2:10:00? I really didn’t know.  And, while I do know the Victoria course pretty, well having done either the full (4) or half (5) a total of nine times, I believe it is a more challenging route than the new Vancouver Half.

As it happened, my daughter Janna was just getting over a fairly nasty cold and not thinking a hard half was in her own best interests. We agreed that she would run with me and see how it would go. It is still kind of an open question as to whether or not her being with me pulled me just a bit quicker, or whether me being there served to keep her in control re her pace. In any case we ran together to the 10K split mat without either of us seeming to suffer over much.  That said, I could just feel that I was tiring and she was comfortably capable of picking up her pace.  As we crossed the mat, we came to an agreement that it was time to let her find her own speed and let me deal with my race plan on my own. I generally wear a Garmin gps device and was greatly pleased upon analyzing things post-race to see that I had run a pretty steady pace from start to finish.  What was more pleasing was that while it was fairly easy in the early going to hold my chosen pace whether going up, going down or running more or less on the flat, I also held that steady pace later when it FELT hard. I’ve actually heard this is an effective way to run!  Seems to be the case. I think that more than anything, having Janna with me for the first 10K, kept me honest with regard to pace.  I’ve seen myself go through 10K on that course, more than 4 minutes ahead of my planned time.  Yesterday it was but a few seconds faster than I had planned.  So much better!

I was also feeling rather philosophical and motivated I guess.  Maybe it was running the week before with the 101 year-old, Fauja Singh. In any case, as the remaining distance shortened and the finish neared, I was becoming ever more fatigued. In the last 4K or so Victoria does have a challenge or two for runners and I was starting to think I could walk a bit if I wanted to. And, I relate the next bit because I think many people do what I was thinking (and from time to time do). As I was more and more tempted to take a little walking break, I heard a voice asking “Do you actually NEED to walk?  OR, do you WANT to walk?” A quick inventory of my actual physical state confirmed that I did not NEED to walk at all, and I didn’t. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a walk break when a person needs it or plans it (in the well accepted 10 and 1 technique), but I relate this story because I learned yesterday that our minds can take us in directions we might not really want to go.  Pushing on when it was getting hard, resulted in me recording a recent PB by more than a minute and a half.  Not only that, but subsequent analysis of my splits from my Garmin showed that as hard as it was feeling as I neared the end, my pace had slowed little from earlier in the race when the same pace felt pretty easy!

Today, in preparation for writing and just to see how I actually looked at the finish, I watched the video account at the event web site. It is a well arranged presentation and as long as you know your clock time, quite easy to find your segment of the finish. I must admit that Steve King is an old friend and knows lots of things about me, not the least of which being our collaboration in the writing and editing of “Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes“. It also didn’t hurt that Janna and I had been able to have lunch the day before with Steve and a small group of friends during that one brief period on Marathon Weekend when he allows himself a little personal time. In any case, either the speakers were rather directional yesterday at the finish or my ears were, because while I heard him mention my name and Running in the Zone, that was most of what I caught at the time.  Today, as I watched the tape to see if my actual physical finish resembled in any way the “Charriots of Fire” performance in my mind, I heard the current life story Steve presented on me and my family!  Now, as I have already admitted, Steve does have a lot of info and insider info at that, when it comes to me. Still, it is always fabulous to hear how hard he works at giving everyone a moment in the sun as they finish.  (Note to anyone who happened to finish near me, sorry about that!)  As I crossed the finish line, we learned that Janna had finished ahead of me and that, of course, there was the book and blog (which as already noted would doubtless have something about the race) and especially that I was here on my own because my wife was in Spain doing the Camino, where she and her friends had already completed an amazing 500km of the 800 total!  WOW!

I mentioned all that by way of recognition to Steve and his race commentary, but also as a way to make my own recognition of wife Judi and this great spiritual journey she is on in Spain. It is no small thing to determine that you will walk some 800 km through the mountains and farms and fields of Spain to get closer to an inner spiritual self. I can’t really say just how much I admire what she has done and is doing. And, I suppose that although her focus was not athleticism per se, she did train quite seriously so that the daily walk of 23-25km would not become a limiting factor, and she IS thereby a “seasoned athlete” in her own right.  She will soon join me as an official ‘senior citizen’ so Judi and all those like her who take on such challenges as el Camino, certainly deserve a big nod here.

And, while I have not even scratched surface of all the amazing stories from yesterday’s day of racing, I do want to take just a moment to congratulate each and every person who took on some personal challenge and brought home their own ‘champion’ result.