Archive for December, 2014


END OF A YEAR, END OF AN ERA (FOR ME)

12.13.2014
Sunset on 2014 Running

Sunset on 2014 Running

It has been an interesting year, this 2014. That includes both personal and general matters. Seems that with my decision that racing is now over for me until 2015, a bit of a review is in order. I won’t say 2014 didn’t have its ups and downs and I’m not talking about course profiles. All in all though, I have to say it has been an overall great year. I hope others who may read this and are inspired to reflect on their 2014 race and running records will feel as I do. I am already looking forward to 2015, and if you read on, you will see why! I’ll wish all readers a great year in 2015, as it seems a logical conclusion coming out of a post like the one to follow.

Lenore and Bob Dolphin, April 4,2014

Lenore and Bob Dolphin, April 4,2014

To begin with the personal, I did a couple of ‘old friend’ events and several new ones. The first of those races was new to me (Yakima River Canyon Marathon) as was the second (Big Cottonwood Marathon). The other was just plain new (Rock ‘n’ Roll Vancouver Half Marathon), to me and everyone else. The latter event

Roger Robinson and Kathrine Switzer - Q&A Session

Roger Robinson and Kathrine Switzer – Q&A Session

also had a not so new 10K component, but given that the James Cunningham Seawall race was The James Cunningham Seawall race and not the James Cunningham Seawall 10K (because the Stanley Park Seawall isn’t exactly 10K – almost, but not quite), you could argue that technically, even it was new.

Yakima was a great opportunity to meet so many old friends in a celebration of running and the contributions of Team Dolphin, not to mention Bob Dolphin’s personal marathon records. Present were a number of Running in the Zone contributors with an appearance there of Roger Robinson and Kathrine Switzer, feature speakers. Marathon Maniacs abounded and a couple of milestone achievements were timed to happen at the Yakima River Canyon Marathon.

Running Down Big Cottonwood Canyon - My most recent marathon.

‘Flying’ Down Big Cottonwood Canyon

Big Cottonwood was a great race for me personally as I recaptured some feeling of accomplishment with my performance. I love running down big hills, note that of the eight times I’ve run Hood to Coast, something like five of those have been Leg #1. Big Cottonwood is like Leg 1, but is most of a full marathon (around 20 miles) of “Leg 1”! I came away happy with what I had done and fairly certain I could have done better had my original travel plan not got a bit altered due to an acting opportunity. I went from an easy driving trip covering a total of 9 days, to a hectic flight leaving Vancouver Friday morning and arriving about 4:00pm in Salt Lake City with just time to pick up the race package and get to the 7am start, then back home Sunday afternoon. The travel was not a huge deal, but I had no time to adjust to the altitude and no time to drive the course and really see that the ‘flat’ part coming just after 15 miles wasn’t, flat that is. Net zero elevation, because you start that segment and finish it in the same place. Whatever, I was very pleased and really thought the race was a good one.

BMO Vancouver Marathon - Start 2013

BMO Vancouver Marathon – Start 2013

The first ‘old faithful’ event in 2014 was the BMO Vancouver Marathon, and it too was sort of new. It was the fifth time I have run the Vancouver full marathon (on three different courses), but I had never run the recently set (2012) marathon route. Vancouver was my very first marathon, run in 1988, so we go way back, this race and me. I ran the new half marathon in the inaugural year, but since the two races share very little common ground, that didn’t help much in knowing the marathon course. I do have to admit that the Forerunners training clinic I run with and lead a pace group for, trains on most of the course at some point or other, but in bits and pieces. And, training runs aren’t the same thing anyway.

Three-fer at Victoria 2007 Danielle, Dan & Janna

Three-fer at Victoria 2007 Danielle, Dan & Janna

If there is something more familiar for me in the category of races I call ‘old friends’, than the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon (and half marathon), I’m not sure what it would be. (No, the PRR “First Half” doesn’t count because I’m an organizer/facilitator of that one – never ran it.) Getting back to ‘Victoria’, a lot of the 11 total appearances were at the Royal Victoria Marathon and I sill kind of think of it that way. The Victoria Marathon holds a special place for me as it was my first marathon completed after back surgery, a full ten years after, but still the first. I ran it with some uncertainty and trepidation even if I had trained pretty well. Finishing and doing so decently was a momentous personal achievement and left me with a great love for the event. Well, and yes, ahem, it was where Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes was launched. The other great thing about Victoria is that it is our family race. Most of the times I have done Victoria it has been with one or both daughters running too.

On a very personal level, I need to note that 2014 is the end of a decade in my life. New age group coming up in January when I officially enter my EIGHTH decade! That sounds so much more impressive than just saying I will turn 70 in January. But, I got here and I’m still going. For a bunch of reasons, most of them having zip to do with running, the early part of the year will be short on racing. I’ll be running, just not racing until April or even May. With 10 races in 2014, that may be a good thing and set me up well for later in 2015. I’m tempted to get one in as soon as possible, just so  I can say I did a race when I was 70, but there is nothing making it look like I won’t have a chance to do one a bit later. Speaking of eras, the race that would have been my #1 candidate for first event in the new grouping is the Steveston Icebreaker, but we won’t be in Vancouver. Nope, we expect to be considerably farther east than that, meeting our newest grandchild. I am actively looking for a race to do with our older grandson, who will turn nine in 2015. That should work out OK. Not entirely certain I can hold out for a race with the new grandkiddly. Still, I do have friends running in their late 70s and even 80s, so who knows what may happen. I mean, it doesn’t need to be a marathon! I’ve run with all our kids and both sons-in-law (raced, that is), so time to start working on this new generation.

MC's First Half - Anjulie Latta and Dan Cumming

MC’s First Half – Anjulie Latta and Dan Cumming

There is a bit of minor surgery coming up after I get done with MC duties at the First Half Half Marathon, and I’m told I will be off running for about three weeks, so THAT is what takes things through into at least April before I can think seriously about racing or maybe that is think about racing seriously. I mean, when you are the young guy in a new age division, you better make hay while the sun shines!

Speaking of shining sun, I am just closing out my last couple of days in Jamaica, basking in the glow of the 2014 Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K, another event that has become one of my regulars. I took a few days off after the race, but then started an easy, early morning beach running program that has seen me do an easy 4-5K each morning, just as the sun is starting to rise into the sky. The beach is relatively quiet, except for a few other runners and some random guys who keep offering me ‘smoke’ and ‘herb’. Hope springs eternal, I guess. They don’t seem to see the irony of trying to get a runner to stop and light up. I don’t know much about the properties of ‘herb’, but I’m not sure it could make me feel a lot more relaxed and peaceful than these totally purposeless runs. By no purpose, I mean that I am not training and not racing. I used my Garmin once, just to get an idea of distance because pace is hard to gauge in the sand. Most of the beach is pretty flat and firm, so the running is easy and you just need to let everything sink into your being and enjoy the sound of the waves and the changing light. No purpose, means no real pace, just do what feels good and stop if there is something to look at. I’ve been running with shoes because more than once, I’ve done a bare-foot beach run and had the shifting sand give me a blister on the bottom of my foot. That in turn curtails the morning runs – kind of counter-productive you’d have to say. But, tomorrow is probably the last day for an early run. The next run is going to be barefoot, right near the water’s edge. I can feel it already!

Morning Beach Scene - Negril, JA

Morning Beach Scene – Negril, JA

IF I DON’T WRITE THIS WILL THE REGGAE PARTY CONTINUE?

12.09.2014
Rondel Restaurant - Copy

Chris at Rondel Restaurant for ‘last breakfast’.

Jetola Anderson-Blair models the all new 2014 medals

Jetola Anderson-Blair models the all new 2014 medals

You know, that is kind of how I have felt. But, as I bid farewell to Chris Morales (aka That Runnin’ Guy) yesterday, I knew the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K was indeed over for 2014. Some years back Chris and I found ourselves staying at Rondel Village and have never found a reason to stay elsewhere. FWIW, Rondel just won the 2014 Best Small/Boutique Hotel award and if you want a local resort experience with all the essentials of clean, convenient, nice beach and fabulous staff without the ‘all-inclusive’ frills and vibe, well this is the place.

I am making a vacation of it, so as readers of earlier posts will know, I arrived early and will be staying for a little while yet.

This year’s Reggae Marathon showed that no matter how good an event may be, you can always step it up a notch. New finisher medals, new pasta party organization, new finish venue arrangements and my own personal favourite, five year age categories. Until 2014, they used 10-year categories. Call me shallow, but when you are the oldest (pretty sure I am) in a 10 year category, your hopes of a stellar placing diminishes. My birthday falls exactly one month after race day and at the point, even in a five-year age group, I will move to a new category, M70-74. Yes, I know, hard to believe. I mean I don’t believe it!!!! Five or ten, I’m still likely the oldest guy, but at least I don’t have to deal with those young 60-something whipper-snappers.

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

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

As some really faithful fans may recall, a bunch of us have created our own event within an event: The Reggae Runners Half Marathon Challenge (2014). This year the group grew to 10 from the original three. Being the guy who loves stats and age-grading, I was the keeper of the official results and ratings. It was interesting how many of us turned out to be in the last year of our 5-year groupings whatever they were. This whole thing and the on-line bantering, OK trash-talking, is part of our particular fun. It turned out, although I really don’t

Deb's a Winna!

Deb’s a Winna!

want to rehash the whole thing here or favour this one or that, one of our number, Deb Thomas won her age group AND was top Female Master in the Half Marathon. Another, and one who has contributed to this blog, Jetola Anderson-Blair won her category in the Full Marathon. One of our number felt a marathon wasn’t quite enough, so Navin Sadarangani decided to create his own 50K challenge by running 8K before the official marathon start and timing his arrival to join the official marathon race when the ‘gun’ went off.

Times (other than the all around ‘good times)’ don’t count so much here. The race is a lot of fun and well organized but you are running in a tropical climate and in that context some really good times are turned in, but they can’t be compared straight up to times a person might do in cooler regions. You are better to judge yourself against your peers in terms  of placement. On that basis, our crowd of enthusiastic runners did themselves proud with a total of 6 “top 10” age group finishes in our chosen events.

It was so good to see Race Director, Alfred “Frano” Francis, back in the saddle, given that he was in a Kingston Hospital in intensive care this time last year. He gave a Big Up to the race crew who did themselves proud in his absence last year and rightly so. That is no easy task, even though everyone is so good at what they do. I hate to start naming names because I don’t KNOW all the names, but no tribute to the crew can go forth without a special nod to Diane Ellis.

2014 Start Line. Just before it all got going!

2014 Start Line. Just before it all got going!

I’m not going to recount the numbers. At the moment I don’t even know the official stats. Regardless, the 2014 Reggae Marathon was clearly bigger and better than ever before. As far as I know, the race went off without the proverbial hitch. Having been RD for a few events, I know there were likely a good many ‘hitches’ but it is a sign of great organization when only the insiders know!

So, even though I know my vacation is continuing, I guess I have to accept that Reggae Marathon 2014 is truly over. This old runner is glad he made the pilgrimage and so glad to see so many familiar faces once again, not to mention meeting a bunch of new ones.

I guess that just leaves on thing to say. See you all in 2015 for the 15th Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K! Negril, Jamaica – December 5, 2015

 

 

I WOKE UP THIS MORNING – TO THE RISING SUN!

12.05.2014

Negril Sunrise Dec 5

The title is the opening lines of Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds“. It goes on later: “Don’t worry – about a thing. ‘Cause every little thing, gonna’ be alright!” Let me tell you that when you start to see the sky like this one hour after the start of the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K it is hard not to believe that.

Runners start in the dark, to torch light, the sound of Marley music and a collective enthusiasm that is hard to duplicate. As you move away from the start you hear the steel drums and then you know it has begun. At 5:15am, the air is warm for us northern types, but to me it always feels like silk. Getting your run on, you start to find a pace. For the first couple of miles, everyone is headed the same direction, toward Negril Town and the roundabout that will tell the 10K runners they are almost half done already. I am always amazed how fast we seem to get to that roundabout, but I guess the music stations, aid stations and all those non-running supporters standing at the roadside just makes it go by fast. Of course, I personally tend to run the Half Marathon, so the roundabout is still a pleasant sight, but not as momentous as it may be for the 10K folk. Having never actually done the Full Marathon I can only imagine how they feel, maybe “well, that is a nice start”. In any case, as noted at the start the runners have the whole road for a couple of miles until things begin to thin out and until the real speedsters are threatening to head back against the flow. It works great and after that sharing the road is not a problem.

Sweet, Sweet Reggae Music

Sweet, Sweet Reggae Music

Larry and Karen Savitch in Negril - Photo: Chris Morales

Larry and Karen Savitch in Negril – Photo: Chris Morales

Don’t worry! I’m not about to describe the whole race, all three events! What I did want to do was set the scene for the header photograph. However fast or slow or in-between you might be, that (or something like it) is what you are going to see one hour into your race. If you are a fast 10K competitor, you will be standing in the finish area sipping fresh coconut water  from your fresh-cut coconut. Pretty well everyone else is going to be seeing something like this as they run. I am not going to tell a lie, if you happen to be passing a band or sound system playing “One Love” or even the above mentioned “Three Little Birds” you might find yourself welling up a bit. It has happened to me.

Soon enough, the sun is fully up and more and more people hit the finish where the party is definitely starting!  Don’t forget after the refreshing coconut, the equally refreshing Red Stripe! Because the Reggae Marathon is ‘an event’ as much as a race, people kind of do what they do. Some are serious, some aren’t. It doesn’t matter once you hit the finish line and that medal is placed around your neck. From then on it is party time. SEE YOU THERE TOMORROW MORNING!

First though, we have to do that amazing pasta party tonight!  Ya Mon!!

 

NEWS FROM THE ISLAND IN THE SUN

12.04.2014

IMG_2485You knew I was going to have to do this sooner or later! First post from the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K and site of the Reggae Runners Half Marathon Challenge. This is all fun and maybe just a couple of serious reflections on racing and friends. This is the fourth year in a row that I have participated. The race has grown each and year and while it is technically smaller than last year there is still a day of on-site registration. 1600 runners are signed up for the three distances, most for the half marathon and 10K but there are a whole lot of hardy full marathoners too. There is a pretty good chance of surpassing the registration count for last year. Friday is always the big day. Guess we’ll see.

I decided to come down early and enjoy some R and R. I spent a couple of days in Montego Bay with Lawrence Watson at his AirBnB (Castlevue). I met Lawrence in 2011, but never had the time to stop in at his place. This time was different. Great decision on my part. Even went running Saturday morning. And boy did I get treated to some special and authentic Jamaican food. Sunday breakfast was ackee and salt fish with fried breadfruit and callaloo. Then I headed off for Negril.

Nifty new shoes.

Nifty new shoes.

Wanting to fit in, I got into the spirit with new shoes that should do the trick. Almost the flag colours of Jamaica and should go nicely with the new singlet. Once you come here many (and that includes me) say they are 100% Jamaican by association. Even with my personal nod to Jamaica with my shoes and running gear, I will  have a Canadian flag patch prominently stitched into the combo, because let us not forget that I am 100% Canadian by birth. Funny thing though is that my Great-Great -Grandparents were in Jamaica for five years, just around 1840. Maybe that is the pull. Don’t know.

Doctor 'One Drop' Dread (my Reggae Name)

Doctor ‘One Drop’ Dread (my Reggae Name)

The Reggae Runners’ Half Marathon Challenge is something a growing number of friends indulge in just for fun. It started with three of us who met through the Reggae Marathon and related social media. When we discovered that the three of us were running a half marathon on the same day in three different places (New Jersey, Toronto, and Vancouver). Because of a wide age difference we decided to age-grade the results and use that for determining the winner. That was how Chris Morales (That Runnin’ Guy and official RM blogger), Larry Savitch and I got to know each other. By the time we got to the next Reggae Marathon our friend Navin Sadarangani had got into the mix and Deb Thomas. Last year, Jetola Anderson-Blair become a competitor and we continue to grow. The trash talk on the dedicated Facebook page gets pretty heated, but it is all in fun.

This year we will have a prize for the winner but also a special ‘Soon Come’ prize for the last place contestant. It is not simple to predict because we have three distances and ages from 35 to 69 and both genders. But, age-grading will prevail and we will have our prize winners. Oh, the ‘Soon Come’ award is being modeled by me above.

Reggae Marathon Buddies - showing 14, soon to be 18 appearances!

Reggae Marathon Buddies – showing 14, soon to be 18 appearances!

On a serious note I wanted to comment on one of my favourite photographs. It is Larry, Navin, Chris and me. Our backgrounds, heritages and such could hardly be more different, yet running brings us together and although we mostly have no personal contact other than when we show up in Negril, I think we truly are friends. The photo shows us holding up fingers to a total 14 Reggae Marathons. We have vowed the photo needs to be repeated this year and each can add another finger which will bring  the total to 18. I should say there are others who probably should be in the picture, but we four are kind of a core group and what knits us together is that when we met, we were all actively blogging about running.

The big pre-race pasta party will be Friday night and the weather looks like it will be good for the outdoor festivities. Big groups have made this their go-to event and several will be back. It is also very international. No count for 2014 but pretty common to see 30 or so countries represented. I’ve already met Americans, Belgians, Swiss, Dutch, Brazilians, and naturally a few Canadians, not to mention a bunch of Jamaicans. Stay tuned for more updates. Things are just getting going!

 

“I’M LEAVIN’ ON A JET PLANE……………”

12.04.2014
Perfect Sunset

Perfect Sunset

Yes, I AM going off very soon to Negril for the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K, and NO this post isn’t really about that.

I will happily admit that I was packed and ready to go as I looked at the November drizzle with promise of heavy rain later in the day, I was eagerly anticipating warm sunny beaches. I will also happily admit the Reggae Marathon weekend has become an annual favourite for this Seasoned Athlete. I have said lots about this race favourite and I assure you I AM going to say more once I’m in Negril and the event is unfolding.

However, this is really about the whole idea of destination racing. I’m not going to say the Reggae Marathon ISN’T going to get mentioned again, but for the rest of this it will only be an example.

The ultimate destination racer is the Marathon Maniac, and maybe more so  the 50 State marathoners. Of course, you don’t have to run marathons to be a destination racer, but these two groups MUST do destination races to achieve their goals. I know a few people who have made it a life mission to run the Marathon Majors, meaning a lot of travel. Yes, you can get three of them while staying to the USA, but then there is London, Berlin and Tokyo.

With that last example,  the question arises quickly as to just what a ‘destination race’ really is. I suppose in simplest terms it is one held where you don’t live and perhaps where you must travel far enough to need at least one night of accommodation. One thing I’m pretty sure about is that the destination event need not be huge (like NYCM). It can be like my first noted destination race, the Reggae Marathon, which is modest in size when you figure plus or minus 1500 participants are spread over three separate events (full marathon, half marathon and 10K). In fact, technically speaking, as long as the race is ‘away’ it could be pretty small if numbers of entrants is what you are counting.

Personally, I like the ‘runcation’. We won’t ask my wife about this. She does attend a fair number of my runcations but for her the destination better have something going for it beside the fact that someone is putting on a marathon or something. What is a runcation, you ask?  A vacation that involves a race, of course! I have done a LOT of destination races, including the vast majority of my marathons. I have done shorter distances as destination events and once or twice completed a race where the race was a happy accident that popped up during travel for some other reason.

While there are many single events that have every right to be on the top-flight list of destination races, we have seen the advent in recent times of corporate event organizers who market the destination event, such as the Competitor Group and their Rock ‘n’ Roll series, Destination Races (Wine Country races) and Revel which is specializing in downhill events in the very mountainous western states. The advantage of the corporate races using a branded name is that runners come to know what to expect. To be clear, that isn’t always good, but you do know what you are going to get. Event organization is built on the idea that a lot of the participants will be traveling in for the race. So, if you want to try out destination racing one of the purpose built events might be a good place to start. Or not. They will almost always be at least a half marathon and probably a marathon. To be fair, a good many do also have a shorter distance event packaged in, but most people seem to have a mind-set that to travel, you must at least be heading for a half. That really isn’t so, but what has logic got to do with anything?

One of the best destination races I did was one of the ‘accidental’ ones. We were helping our daughter move to Winnipeg, by delivering her car to her (I like long-distance driving; she doesn’t). Just happened that there was a great little 10K happening that also just happened to be the Manitoba Provincial 10K Championship. I (we, ’cause this is one of the trips my wife definitely wanted to do) got to visit with our daughter in her new home and to run with her, our son-in-law and also a friend from BC. There was even a bonus! I came third in my age category, so for a year was the M65-69 Manitoba 10K Bronze Medal Champion. Pretty neat, eh? Who asked how many people were in your age group? Who? What does that matter?  You really insist on knowing?  Well, there were three. So what is your point?

Running is not a terribly expensive sport. You really should wear decent shoes, and they are admittedly not inexpensive. You don’t have to race and if you do, nothing says you need to enter the big expensive events. However, if you want to run the destination races, it does cost some money. That makes these events more accessible to the young singles with a decent income AND to the ‘seasoned athlete’ who has moved on past some of the more demanding (time and money) family years.

There are ways to keep costs down, at least to some extent. You can organize groups and share driving and related costs. You can at least share accommodation and when traveling to far places at least consider local resorts vs five star, all-inclusive international chain resorts. If you can work it right, you can sometimes use a vacation package deal with flight and hotel at a place you want to race, although I have never pulled that off myself.  A couple of clubs I have belonged to have designated certain events as the ‘club event’ of the year and encouraged members to enter and then organized large group accommodations at the site of the race. And, what do you think airline or other rewards points are for??? We happen to own a time-share week and more than one destination race has been done using our week or some bonus offer (including Napa, Maui and Las Vegas marathons. just off the top of my head).

One of my favourite races is actually a relay, the Hood to Coast Relay, and at least during the race itself you don’t need accommodation at all – you just keep on running and sleep in a stinky van (if you can). Most times I’ve ever done this one, the total for a four day weekend, three races (legs) covering a total of 200 miles, including the entry fee has been less than $500 per person. As such things go, that is really pretty good!

If you are really dedicated to a destination race, you can save money with planning. Enter at the earliest opportunity. Watch for flight deals if you have to travel by air. Gather your points and use for hotels or trips. The older I get, the less I do this. Why? Well, it sure isn’t because I have unlimited money. No, it is because a lot of events and cheap air-fares aren’t so cheap if you have to cancel due to an unexpected injury. At my level of ‘seasoning’, waiting (even if it costs a bit more) is a kind of insurance against losing it all. Everything considered, I run pretty healthy, but every once in a while, there is enough of an injury that a given race may go by the wayside. Actually, this is a good reason to really concentrate on the ‘runcation’. If you are going somewhere for a great vacation and you have to scrap the racing, you still have a wonderful vacation and the only loss is (maybe) the entry fee. For instance, one of my runcations was Maui, for the Maui Marathon. If I had to (I didn’t) cancel the marathon race, I would still have had two fabulous weeks in Hawaii. Same is true for the Reggae Marathon. I left nearly 10 days ahead of the race, but even though I am registered for the half marathon, I still haven’t 100% decided if I will run that distance, the marathon, or the 10K. I have reasons to do all of them, but the big reason to go is to participate and to have an amazing vacation. It is fairly hard to lose on a deal like that. So, while the trip is not inexpensive, I will still get a great vacation whether I run or not, and no matter which of the race distances I finally choose.

There is something about being in a given place with the sole intent of participating in a race. For those who haven’t ever tried it, there really is something about just being there to run/race. Frankly, even on a runcation, for me the vibe is the same either way. One of the things I love about the Reggae Marathon is that for the few days around that event, most of the people you encounter are there for the same reason. It creates an energy you won’t find any other way.

If you haven’t got the idea by now that I really like this kind of running, well I can’t help you. If you’ve been thinking about making your first destination race or runcation, what are you waiting for? Well, actually, I can tell you one reason you should wait. Unless you have unlimited travel and running budgets, planning is very important. Do take the time to select a few races that really appeal. Take the time to figure out the logistics of training, time of year, other priorities in your life and the overall destination as a place you want to go. Then, if you do need to watch the pennies, take the time to organize something you will enjoy at a price you can afford.

Warning: This kind of thing can be quite habit-forming.

Running Down Big Cottonwood Canyon - My most recent marathon.

Running Down Big Cottonwood Canyon – My most recent marathon.