Archive for August, 2017


FOREVER YOUNG – THAT’S US!

08.18.2017
Forerunners gang getting ready to run - 2016

Forerunners gang, getting ready to run – 2016

And, it is also an upcoming race here in the Vancouver area. Yes, Richmond, we know it is really in your yard, and scenic to boot!

Just three years old (almost), the Forever Young 8K will happen September 10, 2017. I missed the inaugural event because I was off somewhere running a marathon or something! Last year I participated and it was a great event to be part of, so I signed up for the “Third Annual”, happening in just under a month.

There really aren’t that many races geared precisely for the ‘Seasoned Athlete’, but this is one. You young folk can come out and volunteer, cheer or just watch in awe as there may even be a single age World Record set (it has happened before!). If you want to run (or walk) you will have to prove you are at least 55 years of age! YES! Personally, I will have no problem with such proof.

Ready to roll from Gary Point, 2016

Ready to roll from Gary Point, 2016 (Photo – Tamiko Young)

In all seriousness this is a top flight event and one to give a try. There have been some significant changes this year, mostly intended to improve and streamline the race. While the first two years saw the start at Steveston’s Gary Point, the third edition is going to start and finish at the Richmond Oval. The course is still on the dyke, but will now follow the Fraser River section, just across from YVR. Starting from the Oval, participants will go West to the point (where the dyke path turns sharply south), then turn around and come back. Simple. 4K Out. 4K Back.

The other major change is that organizers have made an arrangement with the Oval to handle a number of administrative matters, reducing stress and strain on the race team. Well, that is the theory, and I think in time will be a good move. One of the things involved is the registration process. I try to be honest in what I write and I must say that I personally found it a bit frustrating. Why? Because before you can go to the usual on-line registration page, you must set up a profile and account with the Richmond Oval. It is actually not that difficult, but if you are like me, you may find that unhelpful. I register for lots of races where you are given an option to ‘join’ that so-called community. These are usually large multi-event registrar systems where they keep your info and as soon as you get to your specific race page, they can automatically populate all the fields. However, they also give you the option to just skip on by and register as ‘guest’.

I am writing all this because as annoying as I found the process, I also think the race is worth the effort. So, if you are buying that the race is worthy, please don’t let the process deter you. All of that said, and as long as the event does not sell out (it did in year one and almost did last year), you CAN register at Package Pick-Up (Friday/Saturday), including on race day (IF, the event has not sold out all the entry spots. And, if you are willing to pay another $10) You can register by mail too, but time is getting short to pull that off and get the current price. Here’s the registration details in a nutshell: Current cost – $45, After August 20 – $50, Day of Race – $60.

I must admit, I am a little late getting this post out. Seems I was too busy watching the IAAF World Track and Field Championships, and writing other stuff. Besides, I registered well over a month ago. I say this because there is a fee increase coming at midnight August 20. You can save $5 if you register before then. Trust me, you will be glad you did, register that is, and probably that you saved $5.

As a long time runner, I feel it is really important to keep smaller local events viable. The mega-events are fun and we have a few notable ones in the Vancouver area, but if you want to have other options, we have to keep events like Forever Young 8K healthy and vibrant. So, here I am promoting it.

Finishing Strong - 2016. Looking better than I felt!

Finishing Strong – 2016. Looking better than I felt! (Photo – Forever Young 8K)

September in Vancouver is generally very pleasant, weather-wise. I know for sure it was great on race day in 2016, because I was there, but from the photographs on the web page, believe it was more or less the same in 2015.

The route is flat and off the road. The Richmond Dyke is packed gravel and pretty easy for running or walking. The views are spectacular, if you need something to take your mind off the task at hand.

I know I have something to prove this time. I had a plan in mind for last year, that did not come to fruition. Being ‘well seasoned’ I guess I sort of forgot that running three hard legs of the Hood to Coast Relay just two weeks before, might tire the old legs out (a lot). None of that happening this year. I won’t tell you my goals, but I am feeling good about being able to achieve them. No plans for a podium, just better than last year and more like what I think I can do. That is my approach to racing these days, anyway.

This race is good value for money, even if you pay full price. If last  year is any indication they pay close attention to all the important details. Come on out and join the fun! It is just 8K and some of us probably even remember that was once 5 Miles.

 

Guh Haad n Dun!

08.09.2017
Proud Emblem of a Proud People

Proud Emblem of a Proud People

My Jamaican friends and friends of Jamaica will have little doubt about that title. It is inspired by the closing out of the active racing career of one Usain St. Leo Bolt.

I guess we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves on that, as there is still the 4X100 Relay, but Bolt (or any of the other team members) can only do so much toward the success of the whole. He says his solo career is over. I tend to believe it. Personally, I think I wish he had decided the Rio Olympics was the time for that.

The literal translation of the title is “Go Hard and Done“. It implies (across a wide range of possibilities), a philosophy or approach. Put into ultimate practice, you could just translate it to “Usain Bolt”.

I’m not sure where to begin with my little tribute to this man who is without doubt, and with no intended diminishment of the achievements of so many other amazing athletes,  the best sprinter ever. There are some hard statistics that just take the statement from an opinion to plain simple fact. He holds a World Record at 9.58 for 100m that it is hard to envision being broken. If it is, I imagine it will be done by someone as yet unborn. His 200m record is 19.19, which averages to 9.59/100m, or essentially just ‘more of the same’. He has personally won double gold (100m and 200m) in three successive Olympic Games and a total of seven golds at 100/200m at IAAF World Championships. I am leaving out the Relay Golds, simply because they are team efforts that can’t be attributed to any one runner, and are always vulnerable to a bad pass, baton drop or a lane violation. Only the solo events are ‘pure’ in the sense that nobody else’s performance is involved except as head to head competitors. The record is pretty much undisputed.

Usain-700x400

Usain Bolt – London – IAAF World Championships

There was a sadness in seeing Bolt take ‘only’ a third place in the 100m event just a few days ago. But, he was THIRD, not LAST nor was he eliminated prior to the final! Let’s go just a bit deeper into this. To be clear, I am not saying he should have won. The winning time was 9.92, Bolt clocked 9.95. He was 3/100th of a second off of Gold, about 30cm or one foot. So, the sadness was more sentimental than reality based. Some would argue that Gatlin, who took the Gold should never have been in the race because of two drugging ‘convictions’ and suspensions. According to reports in the news at time of writing, one of those people is none other than Sir Sebastian Coe! As a Canadian, it isn’t hard to remember Ben Johnson, rightly disciplined for his transgressions, and yet we have Gatlin on the top of the Podium in London. How does that happen?

Still, there could easily have been someone else ready to lay down just as quick a time, even if Gatlin wasn’t competing. As a Canadian, the name Andre De Grasse kind of pops to mind, but in racing you just never know. And, regardless of such speculation, there is the small matter of Coleman who nipped Bolt by 1/100th of a second, mostly by getting his ‘dip’ just right. Bolt knew Coleman had him as they neared the line and clearly tried to out-dip the young speedster, but maybe did it almost a stride too soon. That is just my opinion on watching and re-watching the finish. Bolt could be seen/heard in his gracious congratulations, saying to Gatlin, “I didn’t see you!” Would it have made a difference? On that night, I personally don’t think so. The race was probably lost in the starting blocks. It was reported that Bolt’s reaction time was 0.044 slower than the rest (or at least the guys that mattered). Slower by 0.044. But look, 9.95 – 0.04 is 9.91. If he had just got an even start, I would be writing a different story. A bit more on this later. [Ed Note: My mother had a saying that covers this kind of speculation: “If the dog hadn’t stopped to pee, he’d have caught the rabbit!”]

As a ‘highly Seasoned Athlete’ of 72, it feels silly to talk about Bolt as ‘old’, but in terms of the kind of performance required of him, or any other elite sprinter, 31 is getting pretty long in the tooth and in his case, he didn’t just pop onto the scene. He has been competing hard since he was 15 years old.

There is no doubt that Usain Bolt has a physical advantage over many other sprinters, but it seems he also has a work ethic surpassed by few. Because he is a natural showman, some would say ‘clown’, it is easy to just see this guy who comes out, fools around, runs really fast, then fools around a bit more. We (well most of us) love the public personality of this man. He has brought a lightness and joy to the world of track and field that has not been there for a long time. When you combine his behind the scenes willingness to work, sweat, and suffer, with the physical advantage (his height and stride), you get Usain St. Leo Bolt, Champion.

It has been reported that Bolt generally takes about 41 strides over 100m. Most sprinters, even the best, need about 44 strides. Let’s look at that in the simplest terms. Every stride taken by Bolt averages 2.439m. Every stride taken by his competition covers 2.273m. That doesn’t sound like a big difference, just 0.166m per stride. But, it isn’t as simple as stride length. There is the driving power behind that stride. Now let’s assume that Bolt can match the turn-over of the others in any given race and that he can realize the differential built into his stride. That gives him something very near a 7m advantage. The assumptions are only valid if we accept there is a kind of ‘all things being equal’ aspect to his training relative to the others and his readiness to race on the day. As noted, Bolt does not have a lightning fast start. Reaction times from this last race showed that alone as enough to put him into First, had he only matched the field. The advantage in his stride, has made up for the ‘slow’ start in more than a few events. When we see him flowing down the track and shutting down with 10-20m remaining, it is probable that he did get a good start and was able to achieve full stride and power at an early point, more or less dooming the rest of the field.

Anyway, enough of this. My point is that it is going to take a special person to bring both the necessary physical stature and work ethic to the track, and in any way challenge Bolt’s achievements. It is not hard to see that his 9.58 100m record came on a day when EVERYTHING was just right. He had a fabulous start, was in top form and could capitalize on his physical stature; and weather conditions had to be right as well. To threaten the record someone would have to be able to deliver all these things at the same time.

Now, in relation to his career record, imagine some individual sprinter doing it for at least a decade in terms of winning virtually all the big races. Remember, Usain Bolt has dominated both 100m and 200m and there are specialists in EACH of those distances that are just a bit faster in one or the other. This unknown successor will have to dominate the specialists at BOTH distances – for about 10 years!

In ‘getting it right’ there is also the balance of effort when you must run heats to get to the race that counts, the final. Any runner must go just hard enough to move on, but not so hard as to risk injury or fatigue before the race that ‘counts’. In training and preparation, elite athletes are always on that edge. You don’t just walk up and register for a spot in the Olympics or Word Championships. You must win your way into such positions, which means you must race, and race hard just to be able to get into those ‘heats’. Andre De Grasse is a bright light on the Canadian sprinting horizon, but he isn’t there yet and even though he has been having a brilliant season, had to pull out of the World Championship due to a hamstring strain. Anyone wanting to be ‘the new Bolt’ has to deal with such potential situations too. Regarding De Grasse, and while it upset those who just wanted spectacle, withdrawing was the right decision for a young runner with a huge potential.

Soon Come? Rio Olympics - 200m

Soon Come? Rio Olympics – 200m

I was personally saddened that the confrontation could not happen, not because I 100% wanted to see him defeat Bolt, but because I wanted to see the head to head race and to at least see our Andre with the chance to perform in competition with Bolt, as something more than the ‘out of nowhere’ up-start that he was at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Because of everything I said before about Bolt’s physical and other advantages, I can’t see De Grasse or anyone else of his physical stature breaking Bolt’s records. On the day, Andre might have been able to win a race. That, I was kind of 50/50 on as to whether or not I wanted to see Bolt lose. Of course, if someone was going to beat him in a race, then I would be all over it being our boy!

While I’m talking about Andre De Grasse, he provides an excellent example of everything having to be perfect on the day. It happened just weeks ago, in this track season. Clearly, Andre brought his A-Game to one of the Diamond League events earlier this year, and laid down a 9.69, but, it was wind assisted and did not count for the record books, other than as a win over those competing on that day. It was by far the fastest time by anyone this year, but IT DIDN’T COUNT.  That’s how it is. That’s just one reason records are so hard to come by!

So much for the mechanics. In some ways it is the least of what Bolt really means to the world of Track and Field and to a small country called Jamaica.

Being inspired at Reggae Marathon! To the World!

Being inspired at Reggae Marathon! To the World!

As anyone who ‘reads me’ knows, I have my own little love affair with Jamaica and will be continuing my attendance streak at the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K, with 2017 being seven years in a row. I admit part of it is how much I love the event and the people associated with it, but I also feel like Negril, JA is my ‘happy place’. I have no intention of analysing this, but there is no place that gives me such a feeling of calm and peace (and NO, I’ve never indulged in the ‘herb’). More than once, including this time, I have extended my stay beyond the core time of the Reggae Marathon. The extended stay is all about having time to feel that other aspect of being there. They say there are two kinds of Jamaicans: Jamaican by birth and Jamaican by association. I think I may be one of the latter!

Anyway, my point regarding Usain Bolt is that  you cannot go ANYWHERE in Jamaica without seeing his influence on the pride and mindset of the people. It is quite amazing and positive.  There is no doubt Usain Bolt ‘lif dem up’. Like many, he is just a boy from the country. From my perspective it isn’t just his running but more his spirit. Jamaica boasts a line of world level sprinters unequaled by any other nation. To name a few, the list includes Herb McKenley, Don Quarrie, Asafa Powell, Yohan Blake and these are only the men. Not only that, Jamaica has also provided other nations with top sprinters who can claim Jamaican heritage. That includes Canada, and our Harry Jerome, Donovan Bailey, Robert Esmie and Andre De Grasse. These names are just off the top of my head and I suspect some of our other top names have at least a little Jamaican blood flowing in their veins.

Jamaica is a young country. As I write, they are celebrating the 55th Anniversary of Independence. It hasn’t been easy. There have been struggles and the politics has been problematic. Many people hear Bob Marley’s music and for the most part are caught up with the rhythm and lilt of the reggae sound, but REALLY listen to his lyrics. They are powerful and political in the sense that he admonished the people of Jamaica to take control of their lives (Lively Up Yourself). Many of the songs talk of poverty and life (No Woman Nuh Cry) – his own early life. His ‘non-partisan’ political stands nearly got him killed and resulted in his self-inflicted exile for some time. He was so popular with the people that both the main political parties wanted his endorsement, yet really wanted him to just shut up. This is just a tiny bit of background as to why Usain Bolt means so much to Jamaicans. He represents hope and success. Marley was the voice of protest. Bolt is the vision of hope. At least that is how I see it.

I believe Bolt’s success can be explained without the need of PEDs; at least I hope so. I’ve often thought how devastating it would be for the people of my favourite island nation, if he fails a drug test and all of this turns out to be ‘dirty’. To his people he is so much more than just a world class sprinter. He sets an example and is truly ‘one of them’. He brings it home when he is not training and competing. Now that he can, he even makes sponsors come to Jamaica to make the commercials he does. He spends a lot of time in Jamaica and spends his money and dispenses his charity at home. He gives his time because he knows how it impacts his people.

For a nation that sometimes seems unsure, Usain Bolt answers Bob Marley’s question: Could You Be Loved.

Catching up on things and a little bit of FUN

08.02.2017
Hayward Field, Eugene OR. Finishing the Eugene Marathon (2017) Photo courtesy of Michael Carson.

Hayward Field, Eugene OR. Finishing the Eugene Marathon (2017) Photo courtesy of Michael Carson.

Keeping Track of What Readers Like

I wrote a post (the last one) entitled “Where There’s a Will……………….” about friend and seasoned athlete, Walter Downey. I felt it was a more than worthy post about a person who had made a decision to be a better runner at an age when most of us are avidly seeking out age-grading calculators to ensure ourselves that we are at least ‘holding our own’ if and when you can mathematically take age out of the equation. If you aren’t one of the folks who has taken the time to read the post, maybe you should think about having a look. Apparently it is quite inspirational! I was inspired when he set a marathon PB at the Eugene Marathon at the age of 56.

To give a brief recap, Walter decided at age 55/56 he wanted to dig down hard and see just what he could do. It turned out that what he could do was get better (real, not adjusted terms) than he had been before. And, good enough to get age group podium placings  in all his races since November of last year, including a couple of wins. While his running is a great story, the more interesting part was probably that he took on the challenge and did what he had to do (and is still going at this point).

One of the reasons I am intrigued (beyond the obvious) is that this post is now the second most popular I’ve ever written. That factoid caused me to see just what the subjects of other popular posts might be. Well, it turns out they are all about people and their approach or dedication to running, at least as much as the running itself. There is one post that I don’t have statistics on, which I suspect is at the very least a Top Five post, but whatever, it too fits that character.

Ed Whitlock at 2016 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

Ed Whitlock at 2016 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

Bill Cumming - At Loon Lake, BC - his favourite place to be!

Bill Cumming – At Loon Lake, BC – his favourite place to be!

Two are memorial tributes to dead guys, Ed Whitlock ,who needs no introduction, and my own brother, Bill, who died way too young, but doing something he loved (playing soccer).

The top one (so far, with Walter’s piece still gathering responses) is sort of about me, but more as example than as the core subject. It was about being the best one can be. It covered a lot of territory about how one goes about ‘being your best’ as you get older and far from your best years. Of course, I guess I had a lot of experience since I really did not run in what should have been my ‘best years’, as a recreational distance runner.

Jetola Anderson-Blair models Reggae Marathon medals.

Jetola Anderson-Blair models Reggae Marathon medals.

The mystery post is about Jetola Anderson-Blair, a woman who went from not being able to walk a half marathon in three hours (2011) as a tribute to a recently deceased friend, to a BQ marathoner by about 2014. The BQs are now in double digits, but that was not the case when the blog piece was written. The only item that was not specifically about a person and their story of dedication, was one on the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K and I suppose that in a way, the event was presented as a special case because of its ‘personality’ and dedication to the runner experience.

All of this is just to say, this old blogger is going to be looking carefully at the kind of posts that attract and satisfy most readers. I don’t honestly care about numbers (OK, a little) except as they reflect on what pleases the people who take the time to look and read. Compared to other bloggers, my numbers are pretty modest, but people DO pay some attention. For example, the piece about Walter that is now #2 (and climbing) has a reach of over 1,000. The top one, on being the best you can be, hit 1,300. The others mentioned above were just under one thousand. In context, a good many posts hit a few hundred. So, you can expect more posts of the kind just described. We aim to please!!

Teaching People to Run

Participant Guide Book and Log

Participant Guide Book and Log

Recently, I posted about a new Learn to Run 5K program that I developed for Forerunners, and which I coach and lead. As I write this, we have just completed the 10th week (12 in total) and although it involves a mix of running, slow jogging and even a bit of walking, we are now covering the 5K and just a bit more. The big news, especially for participants, is that we just ran a steady 25 minutes, and with a short easy jogging ‘break’, another 10 minutes for a total of 35 minutes running. We are at or over 5K total distance now in each of the three weekly sessions and it is a total pleasure to see the looks on the faces of participants as they realize what they are achieving. And, it is THEY who are achieving this. The clinic program is just enabling the achievements. We have never said how fast anyone will go, so pace is personal and people are encouraged to just do what works for them.

I was thrilled at the last session and only a little mortified. I got us lost in some twisty streets and the result was covering somewhere between a mile and 2K more than advertised for that session. I decided that the only reasonable thing to do was to do the prescribed workout and then finish by walking back to the store where we started. (We weren’t lost by that point.) To my surprise and delight, about half the people decided they would like to continue their easy run. With a bit of a warning to keep it easy, I dropped back to assist the others who preferred my idea of walking the final bit after the prescribed workout was completed.

What the reader should know is that many of these new runners are truly just that: NEW. At our first session, after a good bit of a walk to warm up, we did 10 reps of 1 minute running (very easy) and 1 minute walking, followed by another walking session to finish up. Some found this difficult, or at least challenging. So, it is not hard to see why these people are now more than pleased at what they are achieving.

Changing Things Up

This is briefly about me. After finishing what might turn out to be my last marathon (Light at the End of The Tunnel) and knowing my primary focus would be the Learn to Run 5K program, I have adjusted my own goals. I look at 10K as the upper limit for the moment. My races will be 5, 8 and 10K for the next while. The only one I’m not sure about is the Reggae Marathon. I would sort of like to do the half marathon again, but it could morph into a 10K too. It did last time.

Running with #1 Grandson at Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon (8K) - Oct 2016

Running with #1 Grandson at Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon (8K) – Oct 2016

In the meantime, I am signed up for the Forever Young 8K, Goodlife Victoria Marathon 8K (a return engagement with my grandson, Charlie) and will be pacing the 35 minute group at the Fall Classic 5K. My first race pacing experience was last year at the Fall Classic Half Marathon. I know, because the decisions just mentioned will leave me unready for a half marathon, that I would not want to take on the responsibility to pace at half marathon. When contacted about 2017, I mentioned this and allowed as how I would be thrilled to pace the 35 minute 5K group. Boom! I was in and very excited about it, because our next Learn to Run 5K clinic targets this very race as an option for those who may want to take their newly developed running skill into a race environment.

I am very pleased with my decision and how it is all playing out. A little self analysis never hurts anyone! Will I race long again? Who knows? I may. At least up to half marathon. Will I NEVER run another marathon? It kind of feels like it, but temptations may arise and after I get through a year or so of ‘rest and recovery’, or if I can convince myself to run in a way (with having fun as my only race goal) that is less a strain. I am pretty sure I won’t run another one with a performance based goal.

The Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K

Late afternoon sun outside Rondel Village - Day 1

Late afternoon sun outside Rondel Village – Day 1

Yep, that one again! My hotel (Rondel Village) is booked and decisions are being finalized on just what the whole trip will look like. This will be my seventh year in a row. There was certainly no intention back in 2011, when I went for the first time, to be starting a ‘streak’. I still haven’t booked flights (because I don’t have the full trip figured out yet – there is some genealogical work I want to do re my Great Great Grandparents who were stationed in Jamaica from 1839 to 1844). I haven’t even registered for the race. I haven’t decided the distance yet!!!! What to do, what to do?

Well, one thing I DID do was to set up a Facebook page called the West Coast Reggae Runners to help other local folk thinking about this event. I’ve put a lot of info there for those wanting to know more about the race(s) and the logistics. If you wonder why I would be so attracted that I am heading back for the seventh time, you may want to check out the page (it is a closed group, but we are pretty welcoming to legitimate requests to join). Canada is the second largest international contingent behind the USA. Naturally, the largest block is made up of Jamaicans, but most years there are something around 35 countries represented across the three events.

There are some big new things ahead, with a registration cap (all events) of 3,000. While the race has never seen those numbers to date, distance running in Jamaica has taken a new life and there is a publicly supported program called Jamaica Moves that will encourage people to try one of the Reggae Marathon distances. So, with recent registrations of about 2300, a growing international recognition of this as a top level destination race, and Jamaica Moves on the rise, a total registration of 3,000 is not beyond a reasonable expectation. Guess I better get signed up!