Archive for May, 2015


THE CIRCLE OF (RUNNING) LIFE

05.31.2015
Running in the 80s

Running in the 80s

Well, that title sounds a bit profound and for me, it is. As you will shortly see, it refers to coming to the ‘end’ of something, but the beginning of something else.

Enough of the cryptic and weighty commentary. Let’s get right down to it.

Somewhere in the murky depths of the history of my life, I became shocked and distressed at my personal state of fitness and decided to do something about it. The murky part is related only to exactly how old I was (39, I believe). The moment of shock that got me doing something about it is quite memorable. I was at a dance in Summerland, BC giving it my all, to ‘Rasputin’. It is a) long and b) very energetic to dance to. I suddenly realized I was out of breath and my heart was pounding and I actually had to sit down.  AAAAAUUUNNCHCCH (supposed to be the sound of a loud buzzer, like in a sporting event or when you get the wrong answer on a quiz show).

What to do? I had been quite active and athletic in my younger days: baseball, soccer, track and field and kind of up for anything active in nature. Interestingly, one of my sports, soccer, gave me an injury that had made another (running) fairly impossible. I jammed my left knee very badly, ending my  career in soccer. Although I was playing for UBC at the time, I was not a future star of the game and life was demanding more of my time. The injury was kind of a punctuation point to something that was probably already in the works. After healing up I could sprint short distances and walk great distances. What I couldn’t do was what we then called ‘jogging’. After about a mile the pain in my knee was terrible and very sharp. I actually tried a number of times over the years, but right around that ‘mile’ mark there would be the pain.

Flash forward to the fateful dance. Once I caught my breath, I knew I had to do something. Since running is such an important base for so many other exercises, I decided I would start there. If a mile was my limit, I would just run a mile. Every day. And so it began.

I was pretty religious about. I have no idea how long I did this, but I would get to the mile and even though things were feeling fine, I would quit. It seemed better to get my daily mile in than to revive the injury. What if I tried maybe a mile and a half, a couple of Ks?  Hmmm. Nothing. Two miles ? Well, you get the picture. Whatever I had done, the knee was working just fine. I do wonder what might have happened (for my PBs) had I done this in my late twenties rather than being almost 40. We’ll never know.

Before moving to something more demanding, I decided I should really see my doctor, Don Williams, (for the info of any old time Summerlanders ). Well, Don was a runner and after a proper check, enthusiastically endorsed my intentions. There are other stories flowing out of that check-up, but we’ll save that for another post. The result was that I targeted my first race and began training. The race was the Giant’s Head 5K, part of the Summerland Action Festival.

THAT was the beginning. I believe it was 1985.

I soon got a bit like Forrest Gump and just kept on going, running my first marathon something like three years after that first GH 5K (first photo at the top of this post). Anybody who reads this blog or knows me doesn’t need a recap of the running I’ve done. By an informal count I am well over 200 races plus all the underlying training. Over 60 of those races are half or full marathons.

Start Line - Giant's Head Run (5K/10K) - 1986

Start Line – Giant’s Head Run (5K/10K) – 1986

This weekend I will return to Summerland to run the Giant’s Head 5K once again, completing the cycle some 30 years later. But, there is more, a lot more. This is also the beginning of something, far more than any kind of ‘ending’. On June 6, I will run my very first race with our grandson Charlie! I am very excited about this and so is he. Although he lives in Summerland with his parents and we now live near Vancouver, it is all going to come together on the roads of Summerland on Saturday evening.

Judi Cumming at the Finish

Judi Cumming at the Finish

Danielle (Cumming) Krysa - GH Run 1986

Danielle (Cumming) Krysa – GH Run 1986

Running is kind of a family thing and the Giant’s Head Run represents our collective entry point to everything that has followed. The accompanying set of finish photos (some admittedly, not the greatest photography) is from 1986 as far as I can deduce. From wife Judi, through all three of our kids, Danielle, Janna and Cameron, all are represented. Over the years, I have run with all of them, especially the kids, in our big Half Marathon Challenge, where I ran a half marathon with each offspring when she or he was half my age. I’ve run races with both sons-in-law too and can’t wait to somehow make it happen with the newest grandson, Jonah. Considering our relative ages, him being just five months old and all, that may have to be with him in a jogging stroller.

Janna Cumming - GH Run 1986

Janna Cumming (in pink) – GH Run 1986

 

Cam Cumming - GH Run 1986

Cam Cumming – GH Run 1986

But, the focus now is on me returning to Summerland to close the circle by running this year’s Giant’s Head 5K, and to begin an entirely new era of running things with Charlie. This is the first event, but I surely hope it isn’t going to be the last. I am hoping he will be gentle with his old Grandad and not kick my butt on the first outing. Charlie’s Dad, Greg, seems to like triathlon more than pure running. Charlie, considering his Dad a hero, as any boy should, has followed down the path of getting into triathlons. He has

My competition at the Giants Head Run - June 6!

My competition at the Giants Head Run – June 6!

been doing kids’ mini-tri events for a couple of years now. I’m not 100% certain of the final arrangement, but it may be that Greg will run the GH 10K, giving us a three generation presence in the Giant’s Head running events. Danielle was thinking about it, but her son quite astutely pointed out that SOMEBODY had to cheer and take photographs. He has a point! Sorry Danielle, maybe next time. I mean if somebody doesn’t do that, how will I be able to write the fully illustrated post-race story of how all this turns out?

Stay tuned then, for the report on the Giant’s Head 5K, both the end and beginning of an era of running in the life of the family of this old blogger and ‘jogger’.

 

AND NOW FOR SOMETHING NEW – SORT OF

05.06.2015
Calm before the 'storm' - 6:00am May 3, 2015

Calm before the ‘storm’ – 6:00am May 3, 2015

The past weekend was pretty fun and exciting. It was my first race of 2015 but more significantly (to me) my first the M70-74 age category. There is no stretch of logic to point out it was also my first half marathon run at the BMO Vancouver Marathon weekend. Apart from my own ‘firsts’ it was one of those races that just couldn’t have been much better. The day was near perfect and the half marathon course is a gem. I had no expectations of my own race, something I’ll explain in a bit, but was thrilled to see that one of Canada’s budding prospects in distance running, Rob Watson, won the Half Marathon, and did so going away. That was good, but the Olympic qualifying window is open with a standard of 2:12:50, and Rob is looking to make his first assault on the standard at the Ottawa Marathon on May 31. Vancouver was his set-up event for Ottawa. Of course, even if he does go under the standard, that only gets him into the ‘lottery’. There are at least three other gents named Wykes, Coolsaet and Gillis who may have something to say on the matter. Still, it looks like three will go and if Robbie can get himself under that standard the odds are pretty good, marathoning being what it is and all.

Ellie Greenwood wins Comrades 2014

Ellie Greenwood wins Comrades 2014

Another friend I watched lay down a marker is Ellie Greenwood. Miss Ellie doing well in a race is not really remarkable. She won the Vancouver Marathon a couple of years back, so what is exciting about her Third Place on Sunday? Well, locals in the Vancouver running community as well as her fellow ultra-runners know she suffered a badly broken hand in a bike/car confrontation recently. She was on the bike. She lost. Her medical team forbade running for several weeks. Ellie is the defending champion at Comrades. Ellie was training for her defense of title come May 31. Then BOOM (literally), her training was trashed with the accident. Not only did they say no running but they didn’t want her doing anything physical. Must have been harder on her than the injury itself! So, one might now be able to see how a third place finish in a time of 2:47 and change (only about 5 minutes shy of her marathon PB) was a big result for her. Competition at Comrades is pretty fierce. There is no saying she was going to prevail with or without the accident getting in the way, but for those of us who know her amazing spirit and physical abilities, her day on the roads of Vancouver was ever so encouraging. Go Ellie!

How can all of this have anything to do with “NEW”, as the title suggests? Well, we are getting to that part right now.

My family has been on me a bit to knock it off with the marathons. At the very least, maybe not run quite so many. There is some sense to that. Having just entered my eighth decade, the strain of a lot of hard running is making itself felt. Oh, I’m not about to fall over and I CAN still do a full marathon training program, but if it ever was, it is not so easy these days. When you come right down to it, if you are competitive of spirit, you will always train to your potential (ie hard) and the finish times are just relative if they are the best you can do at the time. I am a little bit tempted to let marathons go, having run 25 and my last one having been fun and pretty satisfying as far as performance goes. I do not want my last one to be an awful experience, so running another one creates that risk. It is also highly probable that if the right opportunity comes along, I WILL run another one or two in the right place or time.

The solution has been to concentrate more on half marathons. My personal health situation has pushed in that direction for this year anyway. Not sure ‘health’ is the right term. I wrote a few weeks back about having cataract surgery and my new bionic eye! Like Ellie, though far less traumatically, that cost me three weeks of exercise at a critical moment in my Spring training schedule, meaning that even Vancouver was a bit too soon re my preparations to race. The difference in my vision has been worth every bit of it, though. Now, I face a similar situation as surgery looms on the other eye. The good news is that the date got moved up a couple of weeks, so my Fall racing is going to be far less impacted. Hey, and I’ll be able to easily read my pace on my Garmin!

Marathon Maniac

Marathon Maniac

Now for the story on the half marathon. Because I seem to need goals, I decided that if I really wanted to change my focus to the half marathon, I should find a personal challenge. As many will know, I am a Marathon Maniac. I recently joined the Half Fanatics, which has similar goals and standards (but for half marathons), all of which are strictly about fun. BUT, people have long talked about being “Double Agents”, having a foot in each camp. The powers that be among the Maniacs and Fanatics decided to make that official and have now created an official Double Agent set of standards and levels. How could I resist? I am now DA#1261 and moving along on my quest to ‘climb mountains’ as the levels are designated by names of famous Mountains.

So, I am already a two star or Silver level Maniac, but partly because I have concentrated so much on marathons over the last year, I haven’t had the kind of string in the Half Fanatics system to be anything more than base level. (No, they won’t let you count marathons as being a half or more.) What to do? Well, chase down some Planets of course (HF levels are done as planets)!

The Vancouver Half Marathon was the first of four I intend to run in 14 days. I’m not sure that is exactly what the family had in mind, but it does involve/matter HOW you run. Let’s face it, if I was training for a marathon I might well run 27K, 30K, 33K for three weeks in a row. Of course they would be LSD pace. Fanatics only care that you start and finish, nobody ever asks ‘how fast?’. So, it works – for me anyway.

Hayward Field - The Finish is Nigh

Hayward Field – The Finish is Nigh

I do have one race in there that is a favourite and falls just where I may be able to do something decent re time and placement. That is the one coming up this Sunday (May 10). It is the Eugene Marathon (half). Love that event. I’ve done the marathon three times and back when I was a mere lad of 65 it gave me my recent marathon PB and a shocking 3rd Place in my group (out of a field of 16, no less). Age graded, that one came out as my second best ever! I’ve never run the Eugene Half, so on this my fourth time back to Eugene I will be giving it a go. I know the route well. Up to something around 10 miles the half and full use the exact same course. After crossing the Willamette River for the first time, the marathoners will go right and us half marathoners will go left with less than three miles back to the fabled track of Hayward Field. Gives me goose-bumps every time I run the straightaway to the finish.  I sure hope this isn’t going to jinx it, but Eugene is my target race.

Eugene Marathon - 2010 - Passing Hayward Field.

Eugene Marathon – 2010 – Passing Hayward Field.

Eugene should be a lot of fun. For reasons I don’t actually know, some 25 runners from the Forerunners Clinic group I run with, have decided they will do the half or full in Eugene. I know a few, like me, are shooting for a good time, maybe some BQ efforts even. (It is that kind of course.) There are definitely some PB aspirations.

Moving on, I was just surfing about the Half Fanatic race schedule for potential races when I fell upon the Sage Rat events in Prosser, WA on May 16-17. By the way, if you are ever searching for a Half to run, you can go to the HF web page and view the Race Schedule. It is public. You will find races from one end of the US to the other and most major Canadian races too. If an event is listed, there will be a link to the race site. Same is true for marathons over on the Maniac web site.

The whole Sage Rat thing just grabbed my imagination. Prosser is not a ridiculous distance from here and the event looked like great fun. Saturday there is the Sage Rat Half Marathon. That one is a pretty standard ‘road race’ and there are some shorter alternate distance races too. On Sunday there is the Dirty Rat 25K ‘trail’ event. Might be some trails, but it seems more like back roads and a gnarly 1,000ft elevation gain/loss on an out and back. Talk about medals! You get one for each race, then one for doing the combo. Do well, and you might even get some age group recognition. I have a pretty good chance of being first out of ONE in both races. The Fanatics count actual half marathons and anything longer than a half, as long as it is shorter than a marathon. So, this will be my first ‘back to back’. Naturally, both the Sage Rat and Dirty Rat are going to be all about the fun and I hope to find folks of similar pace to run with and chat. Being the third and fourth ‘half marathons’ in 14-15 days AND back to back, I definitely won’t be pushing too hard.

All going well and by the time this is all said and run, I should have climbed to the Fourth Level of Half Fanatic (Jupiter). I’m sure that will also do something for my Double Agent status, but that will be what it will be and I’m not just sure how you combine a two star Maniac status with a four planet Fanatic status to get the corresponding Double Agent status (maybe Mont Blanc?), but we’ll see! Some might figure I should be called “IDIOT” (vs Fanatic) but you must know I’m not alone! There are over 11,000 members in each of the MM and HF groups. We DA’s are special though, with numbers only around 1500 at the moment. That said the group is only a week old, and now that it exists there may be interest in getting qualified as either HF or MM in order to be a Double Agent.

First things first, I am pretty excited about visiting Eugene again. For me, it is ‘one of those races’ that is special. It will not be lost on me as we turn for home after crossing the Willamette River, we will be paralleling and very near “Pre’s Trail” and when we hit the track of Hayward Field, we WILL be “Running in the Footsteps of Legends”!

BMO Vancouver Marathon (and this Blogger) Ready to GO!

05.02.2015

BMO Van Mar Logo0001Well, I registered a long time ago. I went to the media luncheon and met the elites in all events and then I picked up my race package (half marathon for me this year). I laid out my race kit. My shoes and everything else match like seldom before!

THERE IS NOTHING LEFT TO DO BUT RUN!!

Well, OK, guess I have to wait until they fire the starting gun, horn, whistle (?). And, I might have to wander around and look for some running friends. Of course I will have to search out Team Joshua the subject of my last blog post. Then, there will be nothing left to do but run.

The weather is looking pretty ideal, especially for the half marathon and probably for elite marathoners. It might get warmish (certainly not hot) for marathoners taking a bit longer to go the distance. Don’t forget your sunscreen!

I ran the Half in 2012 (first year of the new courses) and the Full Marathon in 2014. While I am local and know the routes quite well, you don’t REALLY know them unless you run them. So, I can say I do know both the Half Marathon and Marathon courses. “Like” is another thing. I might go so far as to say I Love the Half Marathon route, at least the territory you pass through. The Marathon covers some of the same ground in the second half and has some of its own amazing features too. That said, if you are reading this and looking for clues, the marathon route is not the easiest you will ever do. My best advice is study the course and pay close attention to the elevation profile and where in the race the challenges come. I think Respect is the best advice I can give. Show it respect and you should do OK, maybe even well.

Cambie Street - March 2012

Cambie Street – March 2012

When it comes to the Half, there are fewer challenges, but one of the big temptations will be to run down Cambie Street like you were after a 5K PB. Don’t do that. Oh, it will be fun, at first. It may come back to haunt you a bit later in the race! Moderation may be the big word for the Half. With the weather expected, you will be treated to an amazing view of the downtown and the North Shore mountains all the way down to the bridge. It could truly be spectacular, especially if you are a visitor or even a first time in this event. Then you will be treated to a corner of Vancouver’s China Town and a romp through the ‘new-old’ Yaletown area until the route puts along the English Bay shore prior to entering the City’s jewel, Stanley Park. Marathoners actually go all the way around on the Seawall. Half Marathoners stay on the road and cut over into the middle of the park, running through to the other side, where a very hard right turn (think switch-back) will be the beginning of the end. Don’t get too excited. There is still a way to, but you are definitely into the last phases. You are more or less running East at this point to Brockton Point, then turning to

Harry Jerome - Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC

Harry Jerome – Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC

the right past the “Nine O’clock Gun” and my old friend, Harry Jerome. If you are needing some inspiration at that point (you very well might), he’s your man (or statue). For Half Marathoners (still on the road), look left, marathoners (on the Seawall path) look right. It will be right about here that you need to start considering how you will finish. No, you aren’t there yet, but it won’t be a lot more than 2K from this point.

The two routes come together just near the Vancouver Rowing Club and everybody is on the Seawall. Of course, because of the big stagger in the starts of the two events, there won’t be many half marathoners out there when the elite marathoners come through. That should be around 10:30am, give or take. So, half marathoners will be three and a half hours into their race at that point. The final or home stretch is along Georgia and up (a little) Pender to the Finish Line. You should be able to see it once you veer onto Pender. Get ready to celebrate, because the work will be almost over and the fun getting ready to start!

Here is to a wonderful race day for everyone from the 8K to the Half Marathon to the Full. And remember, stay safe – have fun! Should be lots of spectators on such a great day! Smile (when you can) and don’t forget to thank a volunteer!  Maybe a bunch of volunteers! Without them, we wouldn’t be doing this.

Finally, if you happen to spot/recognize this old buzzard out there, say hi!