Archive for January, 2013


NEW VANCOUVER EASTSIDE 10K LOOKS EXCITING

01.31.2013

Although it may be more of a personal impression than reality, I have been wondering if the 10K road race was becoming an endangered species – just doesn’t seem like there are all that many around anymore. Well, fear not! Canada Running Series has just launched Vancouver’s newest 10K, the Vancouver EastSide 10K. The launch party earlier this week, laid out the basics, including the race route, which really is in the East Side of Vancouver.

CRS Western Race Director, Clifton Cunningham and his team introduced the new event on January29, complete with background and aspirations for the future of his ‘new baby’. The Eastside 10K will join West Coast CRS events, the Scotiabank Half Marathon and Spring Run-Off 8K. As most will know the Canada Running Series has an Eastern component that includes the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon and Harry’s Spring Run-Off, as well as several other events in Ontario and Quebec. According to stats supplied by Clif at the East Side 10K launch, some 60,000 people participated in CRS events in 2012, raising more than $6 Million for associated, mostly local, charities.

The Series attracts the widest possible range of participants from national and international elite runners to the eager albeit less swift local recreational runners.  Race presenters will build on a proven track record to deliver a well organized and exciting event, with aspirations to become the premier Canadian 10K event and Vancouver’s premier Fall running event, kicking off the active Fall running season. If history is a good teacher, a betting person would be right with them on achieving their goals.

The Vancouver Eastside 10K will fire the starting gun for its first running on Saturday, September 14, 2013 on a route through the East Side of the city. The start will be on the Dunsmuir Viaduct and the race will finish there as well, after first heading East through the Vancouver Downtown Eastside, then back for a quick whip through Gastown, finally retracing the early stages back to the finish. We who might care, were excited to learn it is a fast, essentially flat, looped course. The inaugural race is expected to draw some 2000 participants, but we were assured that was anticipated to just be the beginning. The Canada Running Series under the leadership of CRS Race Director, Alan Brookes, has a reputation for attracting world level elite athletes, and I am personally expecting no less for the Vancouver Eastside 10K. And by way of a personal side comment, as a seasoned athlete and editor of a blog dedicated to ‘seasoned athletes’, I can’t help but recall that it was at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon that Ed Whitlock has impressed his running skills upon the world. Now if Ed isn’t a highly successful seasoned athlete, I’m not sure who is.

Participants of all abilities are expected and welcomed. While there is much information to be found at the web site of the Vancouver Eastside 10K, more detail is coming soon, including and particularly announcements regarding specific Eastside oriented charities which will be a focus of the event. We will be watching with interest for those announcements.

Having participated in other CRS events here in Vancouver, I know I am very much looking forward to the Vancouver Eastside 10K. As a seasoned athlete, ‘flat and fast’ is a relative term, but one that is certainly attractive!

NEW MARATHON TO THINK ABOUT – AMAZING LOCATION

01.23.2013

Photo courtesy of Banff Marathon Web Site

You know what they say about real estate. There are three things that matter most: location, location and location.

Running isn’t quite the same, but sometimes location IS a big factor. It recently came to my attention that there is a new marathon being launched in Banff National Park by Lifesport, a proven entity when it comes to event organization. Roughly, it starts near Lake Louise and finishes in the town of Banff.  Before you go checking, that is DOWN the Bow River Valley. The last I checked the course profile had not yet been posted to the web site (coming soon, I gather), but they report the net down is in the range of 300 ft. While there are some rolling ups as well as downs, I understand there is nothing major in either direction, up or down. They do mention that the whole thing will be ‘at altitude’ (about 4,500-5,000 ft) and that could impact folks a little. Even still, organizers feel the course would be rated as easy to moderate, a relative term naturally, since I’ve never actually met a marathon course that I would call ‘easy’.

Rather than follow the #1 Trans-Canada Highway, the route mostly uses the Bow Valley Parkway, which parallels the main highway.

The reason for writing now is that registration opens January 24, and although the Banff Marathon doesn’t happen until June 23, there is a limit of 1500 total runners. The course will be absolutely spectacular! The normal weather promises sunshine and temperatures ranging from an overnight low of around 6C to an afternoon high of around 20C.

By way of full disclosure and after recent posts here about planning and training and such, I must say that my first instinct was MUST DO. However, I have already committed to a full marathon this Spring, AND I have some personal links to another event happening that same weekend in Vancouver. So, if you were to ask me if I plan to be ‘first in line’ to register come the 24th of January, I would have to say that at this point I’m not sure. But, if it weren’t for these other matters, I am pretty sure I could enthusiastically respond with an immediate ‘Yes’. I highly recommend that you follow the link to the Banff Marathon web site and decide for yourself!

RANDOM THOUGHTS ON TRAINING

01.20.2013

As January passes the half way point, we all start looking ahead to Spring racing. Well, OK, in the Lower Mainland of BC races have already started. Southern Vancouver Island too. But, the ‘real deal’ of racing season is still a little way off. That said, one of the premier races in Vancouver is the First Half Half Marathon and I have personally been leading a pace group in a training clinic which started in late October and went right through Christmas/New Year. The coach is a real driver!

All that said, a lot of people do use the cooler, snowier, wetter months to at least dial back and take some recovery time – not necessarily the same thing as a complete break. Even though I have been leading the pace group mentioned above, I have been doing my own version of dialing back by reducing total distance run and taking intensity out of the other workouts. How can I do that? Easy, I’m not actually running the First Half. As a former race director, Pacific Road Runners club member and this time – stage MC on event day, I expect to be too busy with race work.  No, my (big) personal target race at this point is the Eugene Marathon in April. In fact, I am just in the process of getting back on track with a full training program. Maybe that is what got me thinking about this topic.

One thing that did come to mind, largely because I decided it was time to hit the training accelerator, is the rolling training week. I’m not at all sure I coined that term, but am pretty sure it is not in common use. I think it should be. I know that it has caught me off guard more than once. The idea is pretty simple and sometimes is the total explanation for how you feel and whether or not things feel like they are on track. As I would define it, a rolling week is the last seven days ending with ‘today’. That is for a clear record of recent effort. The next seven days would naturally be for planning and in fact, any seven consecutive days can also be the rolling week. This latter approach can be very instructive with regard to what you should do next in context of what you have just done.

In my opinion, this idea of the rolling week is important to all runners, but particularly to new runners and the seasoned, especially the well seasoned, runners.

“Why?”, you ask.

Well, we all tend to fall into a bit of a trap of looking at our calendars and thinking in terms of the standard seven day week, generally starting either Sunday or Monday. I know when I am training for something I plan to run a certain total distance and perhaps a defined number of particular workouts. In addition to recording them in my running log once completed, I also set up a table with the seven days of the week and the days on which I will do a specific workout – LSD, Hill, Speed, Tempo, etc.  If you are running more or less every day, this all matters a bit less with respect to the ‘rolling week’. However if you are on a 3 or 4 day training plan, there is room for workouts to shift about and thereby cluster together a bit.  I know that more than once I have felt completely knackered, when according to my calendar week I am about right. Done the planned distance. Done the planned workouts. What could possibly be wrong? The main thing is probably that while you did what was prescribed, you did not do it as scheduled.

 Looking at a rolling seven days, which takes in part of the current (calendar) ‘week’ as well as part of the last ‘week’, you sometimes see you have done two quite lengthy runs and a hard speed workout and all in maybe just 3-4 days, not seven. Naturally, what wasn’t noticed was that the runs had bunched up when you just look at the actual seven days (or far less) within which they had been done. So, the planned distance for the two calendar weeks involved may be bang on, but because of actual scheduling it turns out you have run 50% more than planned over the seven days immediately around those runs. Just for illustration, you may have planned to run 35km in week #1 and 40km in week#2, but because of precisely when the specific runs were done, it turns out you have done 50km of hard running over a rolling seven day period. Just made those numbers up, but it isn’t too hard to see what I’m getting at. Throw a hard race into the middle of all that and LOOK OUT! Actually, in Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes, contributor Bart Yasso discussed the TEN day plan, which can also help get away from the standard week ( a somewhat ‘sacred’ construct according to Bart).

Do this bunching up thing once and you probably won’t do much more than make yourself a bit tired and flat for a few days. Do the same thing a few times in a row and damage could follow. You certainly won’t be getting the anticipated good out of your training. The best answer is to try to stay close to your training plan and definitely take care of what is happening if you do have to shift workouts off of the planned schedule. Many highly respected coaches will tell you how important rest and recovery is to effective training. That is all relative, depending on your personal circumstances. For some it really means doing nothing. For others it means going easy or keeping distance a bit shorter. From a personal perspective, as I get older I do notice that recovery takes longer and injuries take much longer to properly heal.

Total (recommended) training distance run in a time period, say a week, has shifted all over the place through the years. One thing to remember is that the elites are a whole different breed, and just because some of them may do 150 miles a week it sure doesn’t mean it is something most of should do.  As you truly get older, you reach a stage where too much is, well, too much. Average runners will generally need a different strategy from the elites if they expect to optimize at a personal level. At the clinic mentioned above we are following a plan of running less to run faster. The key is doing the minimal number of workouts according to a plan and making sure the quality workouts do not get glossed over and turned into easier paced runs. This plan is specifically for half and full marathon training. It includes the long slow distance (LSD) where we are admonished to respect the ‘S’ component – SLOW. It is about endurance, pure and simple. Too many people doing the long run seem to want to test their race fitness in training.  As a pace group leader in said clinic, one of my biggest challenges (and that includes me) is to hold the group back to the planned pace based on our target race result. While not necessarily exact, the general intention once the long run nears race distance (never actually gets there) is to be on the road for about the time the race is expected to take. It is all about letting your body know what it is like to be running for that long.

Pace and speed come from the other workouts. And, a little cross-training is encouraged too. I won’t go into the various specific workouts but the clinic plan addresses all aspects of preparation for the target race and distance. BUT, the big thing to note is that while it is as minimalist as some of the shoes we like to wear these days, it is very demanding with regard to adherence.  There is a bit of luxury in volume, in that you can sometimes ‘cheat’ a little without much consequence. When the plan is minimal but precise, you need to do your best to stick to the plan. Note: that is not to say you should run when you are sick or injured, just because your schedule says you should, but all things equal, you should not dumb down a hard workout for no reason other than that you may be feeling a bit lazy. Again, let me add a note of caution. Mostly we do all this for fun and pleasure. If you really need to back off, that is your choice. Sometimes it is very much the right choice. However, while the minimal training regimen may produce the desired result if properly followed, you must take responsibility for your own decisions re how closely you can/will adhere to it. I know I have set out at the beginning of a training period with a race goal in mind, only to have something intervene along the way. Mostly, I have been able to take a realistic approach to the actual possibility of achieving that particular goal. That said, I have toed more than one starting line with an unrealistic (based on actual training) finish time in mind. I am pleased to say though, that I have always been able to see the truth after the fact and accept both the outcome and who was ultimately responsible. That would be me.

The final point to make this time flows from the discussion of realistic race goals. Training is easy to understand as a physical thing. Run so many LSDs, ramping up to some near-race total, so many hills, tempos, speed drills. Part of training is planning and even practicing race strategy. We all know of the unicorn-like, mythical thing called the ‘negative split’. I nearly did one once – quite recently, as it happens, but alas I only caught a glimpse of it flying away as I lumbered through the last mile or so of the Victoria Half Marathon last October. I believe it was actually riding on one of those unicorns! 

OK, let’s get serious. My very real point is that you can train all you want but you still have to run the race and you have to run it smartly. How many of us begin a description of our last race result with ‘Well, I think I started out a bit too fast……”? 

For my own part, I have even started such commentary that way when my result was actually quite good (relative term). Managing a race is as much a part of a great outcome as is a fabulously successful training program. I am not going to go on and on about how you should do that, just that you SHOULD. Many factors will come into your race strategy including how well you have prepared, the course, the conditions on the day and whether you are trying to simply complete the race or win it, or just beat a rival or two. Maybe that rival is the former you – that is, you are shooting for a PB or course PB for this particular event.

I know that after pretty much 30 years of running/racing, there are only a handful of races that really stand out as excellent results in my own career.  One was my very first marathon, which to this day I consider my best race ever, and another was the half marathon I just ran in Victoria this past year. The reason I rate them so highly is HOW I ran them, not how fast. As it happens and in relative terms, those races being some 25 years apart, they were both pretty good results in terms of finish time, but the reason the result was good was as much as anything, the WAY I ran the race – my race management. Now, if I could just do that more often! 

The real message here is – whatever your goal may be, you need a race management strategy and you need to work on that during training, not as you come under starter’s orders.

Here’s to a great year of training and running!  Go get ’em!

Doctor, It Hurts When I Do This.

01.08.2013

Sugar Tuff Gong Bong

And then the doctor says, “Well then, don’t do that!”

How many of us do something stupid or awful or awful stupid to ourselves and then look for a way out – fast? Yes, that is correct – ALL of us at one time or another.  Yeah, yeah, OK, not you, but nearly everyone else.

Nobody likes being sick or hurt, especially athletes and double especially runners.  By the way, who was the idiot that coined the phrase “run through the injury”? Never mind, I don’t really want to know. If he or she (no, I’m pretty sure it was a he) hadn’t coined the phrase we would have just had to do it ourselves.  Nobody wants to be incapacitated by a cold or some kind of injury.

It seems to be that time of year when a person can take just a few minutes to reflect. I am sitting here in the Rocky Mountains having recently returned from a run in the cold and snow. I used to do that all the time when I didn’t live in Vancouver, but am reminded that for a lot of runners winter really does tend to be a down time for serious training. Today was a ‘nice’ day, but it was still cold for a Wet Coast boy. OR, maybe it was cold for a Wet Coast senior citizen.  I keep forgetting about that. It tends to explain why the same runs are longer (they are if you use a watch to measure them) and the hills are higher. So, I guess it might also explain why a not so very cold day feels cold.  In any case, my run today reminded me that there are seasons to running. For most people anyway.

It is good to have that time when you may be able to run, but unless you are very serious and ready to do a lot of ‘distance’ on a treadmill, your runs tend to be for maintenance and just for the pure enjoyment of getting out there, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. It is a good time for rest and recovery as well as planning. I am using it to write a bit, here on the blog and on some other projects as well. Of course in Vancouver racing season will kick off anytime now. Two of the Lower Mainland run series begin in January and then just keep going.

So, what does that have to do with the clever title?

Well, for one thing, if you have been injured or are suffering a nagging ‘thing’ that won’t go away, this may be a good time to follow the tongue in cheek doctor’s advice:”Don’t do that!”  That simple, it is. If you have been ‘running through’ something, winter is a great time to really get the rest and recovery you need, up to and including not running at all for at least a little while. Dig out the articles on alternative (eg water running) and cross-training techniques and see if there is an answer there. What better time is there for taking the break you need to either just let nature help you recover, or if necessary to actually seek professional help to right whatever is wrong. And, if it seems that what ails you is more serious, then by all means see the appropriate medical practioner and get some expert advice.

Don’t get me wrong. If you have a serious problem, you need to deal with it ASAP. You don’t want to wait until winter to do it. That said, one of the reasons this is a great time of year for repairs is that psychologically, there is less of a feeling that you will miss something if you take that time. The same ASAP approach applies to illness as well, maybe more. A few days off with a cold won’t ruin your training, but driving it down into your chest or bringing on bronchitis or such, will.

One thing I am smart enough to know is that I don’t actually know a lot. If you want specific advice about a specific problem, I am not the guy to talk to about it. What you will get from me is the kind of general advice just offered. I do believe that is valuable advice though, because the first thing a person has to do is make up his/her mind that they must DO SOMETHING. Once you really make up your mind at that level, you are ready to seek the expert advice you may need. Most of us self-diagnose and determine that our problem is: a) not really serious and b) it will be fine if I just back off a little and ‘run through it’. I know I’ve done it, and in 2011, it effectively cost me my running year. When I finally acknowledged that I couldn’t run through it, things started to get better, but it still took until part way through 2012 before I was running easily and becoming relatively happy with race times.  Any of that sound familiar?

I could give a whole list of examples of poeple I know who did things right and made excellent recoveries. I could also give a fairly extensive list (starting with me) of people who tried to brave it out and cost themselves far more time, heart-ache and probably pain – definitely frustration. The reader will be pleased to hear that I have no intention of doing that. For one thing, you can probably make your own two lists by filling in the names of people you know. You will have to decide for yourself, on which list you belong.

One thing I do know is that once you figure out what needs to happen, that is what you should do, whether it is stop running completely and get something fixed, or change the workout routine to accommodate and then repair an injury. I am a great believer in self-advocating with medical professionals and making sure you get sound advice. By that, I don’t mean the advice you want to hear, but rather the advice that makes real sense and leads to an acceptable outcome. Too many doctors and other professionals do not run, nor understand runners. You may not get the best advice from such a person. Do make sure your medical advisor understands.  Sometimes achieving the desired outcome means a lot of work and a lot of patience, but I know people who have been told their running was finished, yet are now back out there winning races, or at least their age categories. Those people DID NOT ‘run through it’. They did what they needed to do and took the time required to make the repair and then sustainably regain fitness. In one instance it meant changing running style or technique, but it worked.

So, on this cold wintery day, there you have my thoughts on a subject we all need to consider, because no matter who we might be, at some point we will be faced with a situation that requires a decision about what to do now as it relates to injury or illness, and both the short and long term.

The photo is thanks to Sugar “Tuff Gong” Bong, aka “That Runnin’ Guy‘ (sometimes known as Chris Morales) who learned the hard way about getting stuff fixed and being patient. That is his ‘boot’ adorning the ‘Bolting’ Reggae Runner. Boot walked the 2012 Reggae 10K – a wise decision, and you can read all about it at the blog link.

A WORD OF APPRECIATION TO START THE NEW YEAR

01.05.2013

A couple of things that have either just happened or are about to happen, have prompted me to land on this topic. As usual, I will be involved with the First Half Half Marathon (Feb 10, 2013), so have begun thinking about what is now my very small part in that event. I also just received an e-mail from Diane Ellis, one of the prime organizers of the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K, indicating they are already hard at work planning for the 2013 version of that event, which doesn’t even happen until December 7th! We all like to think our events are ‘international’ but the Reggae Marathon really is with 36 countries represented in 2012. With that comes a requirement to be out there early and often to create the buzz and interest to get those registrations in for another great event, still almost a year away.

I am also reminded of the BMO Vancouver Marathon’s decision to go with totally new courses in 2012 and all that went into delivering that to the runners. You will have no trouble believing that didn’t happen overnight! Obviously, I could go on and on with examples.

The point is that there is a lot of stuff happening that the average runner just doesn’t see – and, doesn’t need to see. However, as both a runner and a race director (various events, various times and various sizes) I have the privilege and advantage of having a view of both. I decided that a little note of recognition and appreciation might be a good way to start the year. While participants don’t need to see all this behind the scenes stuff that makes our races happen, it is good to have an idea about it.

As noted, the Reggae Marathon folk are already hard at work getting the 2013 edition ready. There is nothing all that unique in that situation. It happens with all similar (and similarly successful) events. I know for a fact that events of such a nature, and particularly the big events hosting thousands of participants, absolutely must begin planning almost before the last event is over. I also know that the great majority of the race directors and race committee members are happy doing what they do. I am not making some kind of pitch about anybody feeling sorry for them. Although I can say from experience that it sometimes gets hectic and even stressful, most of them are having fun and doing what they love to do. RD’s and committee members are often runners themselves, especially those involved with the smaller events, and just because I have singled out a few larger or more prominent events as examples, please do not think I’m ignoring the club organized races. We all love going to the name events and exotic ones, but the local races are the heart and soul of what we runners who race, actually do.  Naturally, it doesn’t take quite as much effort or advance notice to build smaller events, but we shouldn’t short-change what is happening behind the scenes there either.

I will give just one example on the local/club scale, because I know something about it. In the Lower Mainland of BC, the area around Vancouver, we have the Lower Mainland Road Race Series. I am pretty sure that concept is duplicated in many areas and know there are several other localized series just within British Columbia, including the Vancouver Island Series and Interior Series. I can pretty much guarantee that if you go to the web or other sites for these series, you will already find the 2013 schedule posted. That didn’t just happen. People had to consider many things and if nothing else, nail down those dates. In many cases, printing of rack cards, posters etc had to be done. Sponsors for both series and races have to be secured and confirmed, especially if they are title sponsors. Permits are required now in many jurisdictions at earlier and earlier dates. At least you must apply for them, far in advance. Those are just a few of the things that are happening behind the scenes, being looked after by those folks who enjoy doing such things.

Does anybody want to be singled out for sainthood? Maybe the odd one, but definitely NOT MANY. Would they appreciate us saying ‘thanks‘ once in a while. Absolutely! That little word is the grease that keeps those organizational wheels turning.  Some key organizers of the bigger or more specialized events do get paid, but in a lot of cases that pay is more a token payment than fair compensation for the hours and effort required. In many instances the only pay is that ‘Thank You!” and a lot of smiles on the faces of the participants. In most cases, that is enough.

Would it be a good thing if more of us put a little volunteer time in? Of course. So, you can also consider this a pitch to think about taking a little time out of your own racing to give back. I guess that too would be a form of appreciation and recognition of what the main organizers do. Be careful though, you might get hooked on the good feelings you get by being involved in this way. I think this is good at any level, but maybe just that much more appealing for the ‘seasoned athlete’ who has been out there doing races for a long time and can reflect on the bigger picture of what racing entails outside the actual running. As I said, watch out, you might find yourself a race director or committee chair before you even know what happened!

In the meantime, from Running in the Zone and on behalf of all who agree, here is a hearty thanks to all who take the time to make it possible for us to do what we do.