category : ‘Never Too Late to be Great’


Finishing Fall Classic Half Marthon

Finishing Fall Classic Half Marthon

You would think that someone who has run more than 250 races, probably closer to 300 if you count individual relay legs as races in their own right; someone who has logged a minimum of 40,000km over the years and been involved in everything from fun runs to the New York City Marathon, would find it hard to claim too many things that are ‘new’.

OK, you got me. Of course, every new race I run is new. But, I’m talking about truly new or different running experiences. For instance, I realized a couple of years ago that I had never done an ultra. So, I found me a 50K and added ‘ultra’ to my running resume. I could go on, but you have the idea.

The other interesting thing is that for at least a dozen years I have been a leader for one sort of running clinic or another, most notably the Sun Run InTraining program and Forerunners Full and Half Marathon Clinics. Now you would think that someone with all that experience in leading pace groups would have, at some point in time, actually paced for a race. You would be wrong.

Half Marathon, 10K and 5K

So, when an opportunity arose to pace the 2:30 half marathon group at the Fall Classic Half Marathon, I decided it was high time to add that to the old running resume. Hey, it might be a whole new career! I am actually quite excited about this, and just a little humbled.  More on this later. I should mention right here, if this rang some kind of ‘bell’ for you, the reader, there are a number of opportunities still available for pacing in the 5K and 10K events. You can find the link right HERE.

I suppose I don’t have to explain why I find this an exciting prospect. I’ve mostly explained it already. The one thing I didn’t mention as yet, is that I will be assisting others to achieve a personal goal, and that is also what makes it humbling and just a little scary. The humbling part comes from knowing you have the dreams and goals of others in your hands, or perhaps more accurately, feet. I’m not worried about running the time. I’m not worried about the course since I’ve run this race before. At Forerunners I lead a group that has a goal time a bit faster than 2:30. What does worry me is holding a steady pace, AT the necessary Minutes per K. I can’t just kick onto auto-pilot and go. No, it will require running slower than my own normal race pace, but then that is what pacers are supposed to do. No race wants a pacer who is pushing to run the advertised pace. And, the runners who will be following me never said they want to go faster. THEY want to hit around 2:30.  MY job is to nail 2:30 plus or minus a small amount and let each individual do what they can on the day.

Some will have a great day and realize they can do something quicker than 2:30. Yay for them. My job is not to pace them to a faster time. If someone has ‘got it’ on the day, I’ll cheer them on and wish them well. At the same time, if someone is having a less than stellar day and can’t keep with me, my job is NOT to slow down and help them along (something you might do in a clinic – ‘no runner left behind’ and that sort of thing). No, my job is to run as close as I can to 2:30 and let the chips fall as they may, or in this particular case, perhaps the Fall leaves. It is the Fall Classic, doncha know.

Finish Set-Up CIM 2008

Finish Set-Up CIM 2008

At least I haven’t got the awesome responsibility of trying to pace runners to a BQ time. I have used pacers several times for that purpose, unsuccessfully I must admit. But, it was truly amazing to be able to rely on those individuals to help me through. I’m sure I still had better times than I would have without the pacers, even if the BQ was not to be mine. Just a shout out to what a really good pacer can do: at the California International Marathon my particular pacer had a policy of making sure everyone running with her would finish in front of her, but the first time her finish was 14 seconds under the goal time and the second, it was 4 seconds. That was a full marathon. THAT was pacing! Too bad I couldn’t keep up either time. Even still, each race was a recent PB for me.

Back to the challenge of actually holding a specific pace that is not natural. We all have some kind of natural pace that is just super comfortable. Of course, if you are racing, there is generally nothing comfortable about your pace. But, if you are just running,  you will generally just fall into whatever your own natural pace may be. If I do that on November 13, everyone is going to be hooped. I went out for a short-ish practice session a couple of days ago and even while concentrating on trying to hold the necessary pace for a 2:30 Half, I found myself sometimes quite a bit too quick and on average over the whole distance, something around 15 seconds per kilometre too fast. Fifteen seconds doesn’t sound like all that much, but multiply by 21.1 and whoa! it is over five (5) minutes. Where I live I must run on streets and have to stop sometimes at traffic lights, so it is a bit choppy and harder to get into a rhythm. For a first shot, I was happy enough and know I will have the pace internalized by November 13!

At the same time, one of my big advisories to my clinic people is that when racing you will have greatest success if you run to a constant effort, more than to a constant pace. In other words, if your goal pace feels a certain way on the flat, then you should try to hold that ‘feeling’ when you go up a hill. You will slow a little, but you conserve energy. Same deal going down. Try to hold that feeling of exertion. You will go faster, but not ‘that’ fast and you will score some recovery. Over the greater distance, it will kind of even out and you WILL have what looks like a constant pace. Of course, this depends on approximately equal amounts of ups and downs, but that will work for the Fall Classic as it amounts to two loops of the same route. All of this is to say I am not going to have a melt-down if my instantaneous times are a bit fast or slow relative to the bang on theoretical 2:30 pace. I guess I’m just going to have to try to be a running “Goldi-Locks” and make it ‘juuuuuuust right’.

Gratuitous photo of me with daughter, Janna after Fall Classic (2008)

Gratuitous photo of me with daughter, Janna after Fall Classic (2008)

The Fall Classic has been a Vancouver fixture for a lot of years. It bills itself as the last major race of the season. That seems to me to be a fair claim. The Half Marathon attracts about 700 or so, but when you add in the 10K and 5K events, the total swells to around 1800. I have to admit that I have not run either of the shorter races, but all routes follow much the same course. Naturally, since the event(s) start and finish in the heart of the Academic Campus, a lot of the 5K is run on the streets of the University of British Columbia. The 10K and the Half head out along Marine Drive and dip down along the Old Marine Drive for a couple of kilometres of forested wonder. The last time I ran the route, there was a bit of fog on the nearby sea and just enough filtering through the trees to make the run rather mystical! It actually sent a bit of a shiver down my spine. Well, or maybe that was because it was a bit cool and I may have under dressed. (Just a bit of running humour there.) Some of my most amazing races have involved such misty conditions – especially a couple of very early morning legs I’ve run at Hood to Coast. Whatever the conditions on the day, the Fall Classic will deliver a great running experience. There’s a bunch of great features and benefits provided by the SPONSORS, but that is on the web site. Go have a look for yourself.

I’m going to be running the Half Marathon, but if you are interested in running one of the other distances (5K or 10K), do note that the individual events start at different times.



logoRunning life, that is. The rest of it has already been TOO busy of late. Have you missed me???

First up is a race favourite, the Eugene Marathon (and in my case, Half). I was selected to be a Race Ambassador for this event so will be doing duty at the Expo on Friday (middle of the day) and Saturday (late afternoon). If you are there, come by Soles for Souls and say hello.

Marathon Start - Eugene 2010

Marathon Start – Eugene 2010

I have run most of the Eugene Half Marathon four times on my feet and uncounted times in my mind. I’ve run the marathon three times and the half once, with this Sunday to be the second time for the half marathon. That is a total of five appearances out of the 10 years this race has been happening. I put it this way because pretty much the first 10 miles of the half and full marathons use the same route. Just past that point the courses split. The first time, maybe the second as well, the marathoners used to stay on the road to Springfield while the half marathoners dodged down a path and across the Willamette River. Now everyone crosses the river before the routes split. So much nicer, I think.

As soon as the Half Marathon turns down river, you will find yourself running beside, or on, or crossing over “Pre’s Trail”. Yep. That Pre. It was the area he went to do long runs. The nice thing about the split too, is that you only have three (3) miles to go (5K for us Canucks).  Hey! What???? Why do Canadians have to run 5K? Because we’re special, I guess.

Hayward Field - The Finish is Nigh (Photo Eugene Marathon)

Hayward Field – The Finish is Nigh (Photo Eugene Marathon)

Speaking of ‘special’ though, when you hit the end of that 3 mile finish segment everyone gets to be truly special. The feeling of turning off Agate Street and through the gates of Hayward Field is pure magic. You enter the track just about where the 200m start area would be and then you round the bend for the finish down the straight-away. This will be my fifth time and I expect the tingle up my spine will be no less than the first time in 2010 when I finished what turned out to be my recent marathon PB. Yep, third best raw time ever and second best age graded. Hmmm, maybe that is partly why I like this race so much. Partly, but far from the only reason. This is a special event for anyone who loves a great course and a legendary running experience. I know that I, like everyone else on May 1, will be “Running in the Footsteps of Legends”.

I won’t be spending much time savouring the moment though. More work to be done! As soon as there is a little recovery time at the post-race festivities, it will be into the car and off in the direction of Las Vegas! Las Vegas? Nevada? Indeed.

Running Down Big Cottonwood Canyon - My most recent marathon.

Running Down Big Cottonwood Canyon 2014 (Photo Revel Race Series)

The timing is either really good or really bad, depending on how you look at it. The Revel Race Series folk decided to start up a brand new marathon/half marathon race just to the north-west of Las Vegas. It is the Revel Mount Charleston Marathon. While Eugene may be one of my favourite races, the Revel series are my favourite KIND of marathon or half. I found out about Revel races via another Marathon Maniac and tried out my first one a couple of years ago: the Big Cottonwood Marathon near Salt Lake City. Revel specializes in running down hill, Big Time. The marathon courses typically drop plus or minus 5,000 feet! Now some would look at this as seriously crazy and knee busting. I, on the other hand, through no fault or cleverness of my own making, seem to be able to run down hills very nicely, thank you very much. I just seem to have a stride or gait or something that works on hills. My fastest ever race was Leg #1 of the Hood to Coast Relay which drops 2000 feet over just under six miles. I may actually be running that baby again come August. We are in for 2016 and I have to run something! Why not Leg #1??

Eugene -Passing Hayward Field. First time. Can't stop yet!

Eugene -Passing Hayward Field. First time. Can’t stop yet!

I’d love to say something about the Mount Charleston race, but since this is the first running, there isn’t much history. OK, no history. However, the Revel series does have a history and they put on a good event. I am much looking forward to this race come May 7. Yes, just six days after Eugene. That is where the good/bad timing comes in. Considering that it can be done in one longish driving trip is the ‘good’ part. Racing two half marathons you want to do well in, just six days apart, is not recommended as I vaguely recall. Decisions must be made.

Right now, I’m thinking strong and steady for Eugene with lots of recovery and care, then give ‘er at Mount Charleston. Because of scale, course profiles are often deceptive with some surprising little ‘ups’ where it looks all down and steeper sections where the downhill looks smooth and even. All that said, the profile tells us this is about a 3% down-grade. A bit steeper up the canyon and a little less so on the town roads, but still always heading down. It should not be terribly punishing and run well could produce a pleasing time for this old codger. You never want to assume that running a downhill course is like having roller-skates on. You still have to run, but gravity will help. It certainly won’t hinder!

Running in the cool high country above the desert will be fun. The race starts early, so hopefully by the time I can finish a half marathon, it still won’t be too hot. Later in the day, the temperatures are going to be getting up there. Even if I have a terrible race, I’d expect to be finished by 9:00am. Heat shouldn’t be a big factor. Hey! Remember me? I’m the guy who loves the Reggae Marathon where you get warm temps and just a wee tad bit of humidity to spice it up.

Gratuitous photo from the Inaugural Boston 5K

Gratuitous photo from the Inaugural Boston 5K

It isn’t that often, if you think about it, that you get to be part of the inaugural event for anything. This will be one for me. I’ve had a few over the years, but when you think of how long I’ve been running, it really isn’t that many. For me, this is going to be a big one. Without straining something (my brain) it seems like this is about the fourth such event. One that really stands out for me was the very first Boston Marathon 5K which started in 2009. Our daughter was running the Marathon and asked me to come be her support team. It was a thrill to be there for her, and to take advantage of the very first BAA 5K run on Sunday morning. They let us ‘borrow’ the official finish line. Probably the only way I will ever get to cross THAT line!

So, that’s it for pre-race speculation. I am very much looking forward to both of these races. You (if you wish) can look forward to the post-race accounts. You know they will be coming!



Although it may be obvious to some, and I do mention it from time to time, this Blog is based on the book: Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes.

Steve King and I put a lot of work into developing the concept and then finding the 24 other contributors who provided the content, along with the two of us. It was an amazing labour of love and we were, and are, very grateful to all those who provided their perspective on what it means to be a seasoned athlete. Steve and I are co-Editors but we also wrote more than just our own particular essays on the general topic.

About Half of the Contributors, Victoria, BC at the official launch.

About Half of the Contributors, Victoria, BC at the official launch.

The 26 contributors range from avid runners like myself through Olympians and World Record holders, and everything in between. There are Marathon Maniacs, ultra-runners, marathoners, middle distance runners and sprinters, on road, track and trail. There are professional writers and those who may never write this sort of thing. That was where the editing skills came in. For the most part, I assisted contributors to get their contributions whipped into shape while trying very hard to keep their personal voices very much in the writing. Steve, as you might imagine was the guy who knew everybody and brought a large proportion of the contributors to the table.

Cover Layout (design by Danielle Krysa) including book reviews.

Cover Layout (design by Danielle Krysa) including book reviews.

For me, it was an amazing experience getting to know these people and working with them to polish up their contributions. We only had a few ‘rules’. For the most part, we just said keep it within a range of total words and keep the topic to running as the years roll on. We wanted various perspectives on how people kept their running fresh and fun, but otherwise there weren’t a lot of directives. For what it is worth, I more or less try to follow the book format with my blog posts, with respect to both length and general content.

It was such a pleasure and even a bit of a revelation to see how many approaches there were to running once one is in the ‘seasoned’ category. At one point we had our own idea of what ‘seasoned’ was (age-wise) but eventually, let people bring their own definition. Let’s face it, for elite athletes, Masters territory generally falls under the heading of ‘seasoned’. As it happened, the youngest writers for our book were 46 at time of writing. I have since met some remarkable senior runners who hadn’t even started running at the lower end of our age spectrum. I would also point out that many of our contributors have their own books or are/have been publishers of running publications. There are a LOT of race directors and organizers among us as well. We’ve got coaches and mentors. Many give back to the sport as well as running for their own pleasure. I would love to ‘name drop’ a little here, but it wouldn’t be fair to those I don’t mention. I deal with a fix for that a little later in this piece.

Steve King X2 (from Penticton Herald)

Steve King X2 (from Penticton Herald)

I was just a little shocked when I realized Running in the Zone (the book) was released just over 10 years ago at the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon in 2005 (see the photo at the top of this article). I still can’t quite believe that. Still, the ideas are as fresh and relevant today as they were when the book first saw the light of day. What makes it so? I think it is probably because there were only a couple of ‘how to’ oriented pieces and even those were kept in context. Most of the writing was around how running fit into any of the authors’ lives and how each felt about it. I am still in regular contact with a number of these writer/runners and don’t think much has changed. If we asked them to do it again, I think that in broad terms, we would get a lot of the same subjects and content.

Since writing this book, I have met quite a number of ‘seasoned’ athletes and others fast joining the ranks, who I might have invited to join us were we just starting. It seems like there are common themes among us that hold true. When we were done with publishing of the book, I sent out a small survey to the contributors to get some stats and perspectives. One of the questions I asked was “Why do you run?”. Virtually every person responded to me with one form or another of “Because I love it.”

Because I love it. That took many forms, but the essence was that most everyone could not imagine their lives without running as a part of it. Not everyone was going fast, certainly not as fast as they once did, but they were still getting pleasure and fulfillment from whatever kind of running they were doing. Some were still very competitive both in spirit and performance, but some were just doing it for their own benefit and not trying to prove anything.

Co-Editors, Dan and Steve, working the Expo (BMO Vancouver Marathon, 2007)

Co-Editors, Dan and Steve, working the Expo (BMO Vancouver Marathon, 2007)

I seldom ‘pump’ the book regarding sales. We never wrote it to make money. Steve and I used to make appearances with the book at Race Expos and had a great time talking to people while selling a copy or two. I have had lots of feedback from people who did buy it and read it, and it is pretty well always positive. One of the great things about it is that it is not meant to be read cover to cover, or even in order, as presented. You can read what appeals to you today and come back another time for something else that is clicking at that point. And, it is not the opinion (clever as such might be) of just one, or even two individuals. You get the ideas of 26 individuals.

You may be wondering about the contributors I keep mentioning and what they decided to talk about. Well, if you are reading this you must be on the Blog Site, so you can just go over to the right side of the page and click on “About” or better, “A Peek Inside the Covers” where you can find a reproduction of the index which will show you the Who and What of Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes.

When we started out the book was available as a soft cover traditional printed form. Since then, it has been offered in e-format and it seems a fair number like that version. Of course, you can still buy either format via Trafford Publishing, as well as other on-line sales sites like Amazon. Or, if you happen to know Steve King or me, well, we will be more than happy to sell direct. And, we will autograph the book for you (probably a given, unless you stop us). If you get it right, you might be at a race where both of us are on hand. If it is one of several, such as the Vancouver Marathon or Victoria Marathon, there will be a good chance that at least a couple of other authors may be around too and you might get them to sign as well.

Rod Waterlow CIM Finish - 3:54:44. Final part of regular report series.

Rod Waterlow CIM Finish – 3:54:44. Final part of regular report series.

From time to time, book contributors have offered something here on the blog, and I am certain there will be further such contributions coming in the future. One or two have generously allowed me to reproduce articles published elsewhere. I have also been thrilled to have had the chance to invite other ‘seasoned athletes’ to contribute their thoughts to this blog, or in one case provide a series of brief reports and updates from an important event.

It was so much fun to write/edit this book and I know many have had the pleasure of reading it over the years. If you think you would like to own a copy of Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes, we would be humbly honoured.




Runnin Guy takes a rest

That Runnin Guy takes a well deserved rest.

Well, so most of you have already jumped to the conclusion that I am going to talk about age. You are partly right, but this IS a blog for ‘seasoned athletes’. The truth is, this post is kind of about four numbers. It is also getting published today, in honour of my friend, Chris “That Runnin’ Guy” Morales, who has apparently got himself a new number – it is his Birthday today. You may recognize the name or blog handle as associated with the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K. That was how/where we met, several years ago, and now where each December, we solve the problems of the world (well our worlds) over a Red Stripe or two and some good jerk pork!

OK, I said there would be numbers. Here they are:

First Number: Age (yes, you were right)

Second Number: Time for any given race distance

Third Number: Age graded time for any given race distance

Fourth Number: % Performance for any given distance at any given age

Many people like to say “Age is just a number.”  That is true. I like to say it. I know a lot of amazing ‘seasoned’ athletes and in this case I’m even going to use another ‘s-word’, senior athlete. As I am one, I’ve got to know a lot of such people. As a matter of fact, after the First Half Half Marathon which I just ran for the first time on February 14, I was standing with two other senior runners (on the day) and one who would have been running were he not working back from an injury (that did NOT happen while running). I was the youngster at 71, but together we added up to 305 years among four guys. I won’t class myself with these other three, but I am still going and they would put a good many younger people to shame at any given distance. But, they (we) all work at it. So, we definitely fit in the ‘age is just a number’ category.

Although I’ve enjoyed some podium finishes in the last year, I am the first to admit there was an element of picking the right races! I have never been fastest in a class field, but what I really care about is how I compare to the me I used to be. You certainly can’t make a 30, or more, year comparison to the Second Number above. That number is the time you recorded for any given distance on your best day. Naturally, we all run different paces on different days (depending on the circumstance), so rather than any specific race it is probably most reasonable to compare PB’s either outright or recent. I’ve started, on someone’s recommendation, to keep 5-year ‘bests’. For ease of keeping track, I use the usual 5-year age groups, so right now I am working M70-74. Even your best at age 70 can’t compare to your best at 43/44 (when I actually set my PB times).

To be clear then, my “Second Number” is your raw time at any age. It is what it is. You try not to let it slip too fast as the years and races roll by, but you can’t stop it forever. Best you can do is limit rate of change.

I also keep record of my annual PBs, so if I were to say run three or four 10Ks, I only include (for this purpose) the best one. Sometimes, it is the only one if you only run one race. For instance, last year I only ran one marathon, so that was the best, the worst and only. You get the idea.

Hood to Coast Start 2012

Hood to Coast Start 2012. Age grading will even work on the ‘random’ leg distances in a relay!

That leads us to the Third Number, the age graded equivalent (converted) time. I like this number and will talk about it in a bit, but want to bring in the Fourth Number now, as they do go hand in hand. The Fourth Number is the % Performance and in the last number of years, the one I keep track of the most. These standards are related but different. In essence, the age graded time is based on an ever-growing database of performances by age (and gender) for any given distance. The % Performance is relative to the single age World Standard for age and distance. I have learned that the calculator I use, put out by World Masters Athletics, is actually a bunch of equations and is not just a block of times for a precise distance (say 10K). As a result, it is actually possible to enter a decimal value for your age (I only do this for my own statistical records) and for distance too. There are some strange distances out there and if you are running relays, like my favourite Hood to Coast, the legs are what they are. They aren’t neatly divided up into familiar standard distances. The calculator still works. It also works on a decimal age. That is important to me because living in Vancouver where you can run, and race, all year and with a birthday that comes early in January, a late in the year race (like the Reggae Marathon) makes me almost a year older than my nominal age. As I said, I only use this for my own statistics, but at the higher end of the scale where I am now, a year makes a big difference.

Now, onto some specifics. After a not so pleasing 2:29:32 on February 14 at the First Half Half Marathon, I did as I always do and looked up my age graded results. To my surprise, my converted time for the half marathon was 1:48:20. That got me thinking about how it compares to my general achievements over a number of years. For the last good five years, my converted time has been in the low 1:40 range. This last race involved a number of issues and challenges for me (and some that included all runners – it wasn’t such a nice day). I don’t want to make excuses but am convinced I can do significantly better, and will as the season progresses.

Medal haul from the four in 15 day races (BMO Vancouver, Eugene and Sage Rat). Includes a first and second at Sage Rat weekend (red ribbons)

Medal haul from the four in 15 day races (BMO Vancouver, Eugene and Sage Rat). Includes a first and second at Sage Rat weekend (red ribbons)

As I looked back at all half marathons over the last few years, I could see how the raw chip time got slower, while the age graded time stayed relatively static (a good and satisfying thing). This is where the % P also comes in and is somewhat similar, because quite like the age graded time, it too compares favourably year over year. Circumstances always count, so care needs to be taken in the comparisons. As we are talking half marathons at this precise moment, I would point out that I ran three last year but all in 14 days, with full knowledge that on the 15th day I would be running a 25K so-called trail race (really more country roads). Anyway, all four of these races were run either with the intention of conserving energy for what was yet to come, or with the weight of what had just happened in the last week or two. So, while I was proud of the greater achievement and it got me to Level 4 in the Half Fanatics, the times are to be taken under advisement.

All of the above notwithstanding, as I look over a longer period of time and use the annual best time, the age graded result falls within quite a narrow range between 1:40 and 1:45, even though the actual times were getting slower. (For context, my half marathon PB is 1:33:40 which grades to 1:27:48 and happened in 1988. That first marathon PB was a 64% effort at age 43, while my marathon at age 65 was a 60% performance. Slippage? Yes, but not so bad I think.) But, notwithstanding that raw times were getting slower, that is kind of the point. My age was increasing, too.

As it turns out, aging is not really a straight-line sort of thing and neither is the age grading algorithm. Thusly, I had a graded time for the First Half that was not as bad as I thought it would be. The other number is the % Performance and is often my preferred standard. I have realized that if I can keep myself on a steady track, I can achieve around 60% on a reasonable day on a reasonable course. So, days like two Sundays ago, with the rain and all, should be taken in context. Situations like the four in 15 days should similarly be put in context. But, if you run races, you usually get a few each year when conditions are decent, not ideal necessarily, but decent.  Those you can reasonably compare and it pleases me that I find myself ‘holding my own’, as the pages of the calendar turn.

Reggae Party Time! Cool, refreshing coconut and the sea just a few steps behind the stage!

Reggae Party Time! Cool, refreshing coconut and the sea just a few steps behind the stage!

My personal approach to this is to use my best time for each distance in a given year. Sometimes, as already noted, that is just one race at a given distance, but sometimes there are several to choose from. Those ‘bests’ tend to fall in the target range I mentioned. That is what I use to judge my personal progress. You can’t do anything about things like the weather in mid-February or the heat in a race like my much loved Reggae Marathon (Half). Those results have to live on their own, but as I said, each season you probably get a good course on a nice day when you are well trained and feeling fit, and that will usually be the ‘keeper’ for that year. Here is another situation then were a number has meaning and not just for me. Some races actually do have age graded results and some even give prizing on graded times. There is always a little bit of shock among younger runners when some 70 year-old hot-shot wins.

As always, I write about my own experiences as the example to a larger point. What I have written about can be done by anyone at any time. You just need to know your age, your time and the distance. Plug it into one of the calculators and hit the button. There are a number of such age-grading systems out there now, but I stick with the one I started with just so the outcomes remain comparable over the many years. Because I started a long time ago, all I need to do now is plug in the latest race and add it to the rest. If you want to start your own record and don’t want to invest all the time it might take to go back to your ‘personal beginning’, you might just try to look up your five-year PBs to bring yourself up to some recent point in time and go from there. Word of warning, the age effect only kicks in around 35. Younger than that, you can save time and just use your actual result. It is fun to watch your adjusted performances as you go along.

Eugene Marathon - 2010 - Good Times (and a good time).

Eugene Marathon – 2010 – Good Times (and a good time).

Finishing up my Marathon PB (1988)

Finishing up my Marathon PB (1988)

I have had times where my training and running were better than at other times. Sometimes it is life, sometimes an injury that impedes progress and sometimes everything is ticking along like you would hope it would. A good example for me was the year I turned 65. I was healthy, had the time and was training pretty well over an extended period of time through the year before and into that year when I was 65. I peaked (recent races) on results over all distances right up to marathon and found that my graded times and % Performance stats where better than they had been in some years. In fact, my first marathon is, was and probably always will be both my best actual time (that is an absolute at this point) and best graded time (most likely). BUT, the Eugene Marathon run in 2010 turned out to be my third best raw time and second best graded time. The difference was 22 years. Clearly, comparing the raw times makes the two look very different (was just over an hour difference between Vancouver (1988) and Eugene (2010)), but age grading narrowed the gap to a few minutes. It is still a highlight of my running career!

Four Amigos after RM2015 showing 22 total races (fingers up) with That Runnin' Guy second from the right.

Four Amigos after RM2015 showing 22 total races (fingers up) with That Runnin’ Guy second from the right.

Oh, and this picture of the Four Amigos is a testament to age-grading and its many uses. We use the technique to compare our times and even distances in a friendly competition, which includes a bunch of other  people who are also Reggae Marathon regulars. All those fingers in the air represent the number of times we have done one of the distances of the Reggae Marathon (full, half or 10K). Takes some doing because left to right (and through no fault of our own, we ARE arranged by ascending age) there are some 35 years separating youngest and oldest (me, of course). Maybe if some of you ‘seasoned’ athletes out there give this age-grading thing a try, you will find some surprising and very pleasing outcomes.  Have fun!


Ho Hum to Banner Year in a Few Easy ‘Clicks’

Getting ready to run the First Half, but won't be up with these guys!

Getting ready to run the First Half, but won’t be up with these guys!

Some of this isn’t new news, but I have been personally thrilled about things that have happened in the last while that have turned 2016 from a year where I intended to continue running but without much more of a plan than to ‘do it’.

Wow, has that ever changed!

I am already officially registered to run four of my favourite events of all time and committed to one more as soon as registration opens.

Eugene Marathon - 2010 - Good Times (and a good time).

Eugene Marathon – 2010 – Good Times (and a good time).

In February, I will run the First Half Half Marathon, for the very first time. I’ve talked about this before, so we’ll just leave that for now. As noted here quite recently, I am a Race Ambassador for the Eugene Marathon. That comes up in May and is also a real favourite. (PS, don’t forget the Ambassador has a discount code to share!) Flashing forward to late August, after several years of trying unsuccessfully, I got a team accepted into the Hood to Coast Relay. Oh yeah! Registered, and recruited a full team already. The fourth event is the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon. This one is going to be a bit different because rather than the full or half marathon, I will (again, a first) be running the 8K with grandson Charlie.

Home stretch of Giant's Head Run (2015)

Home stretch of Giant’s Head Run (2015)

So there you have it! Just like that, all registered in four of my favourite racing events. BUT WAIT (as they say on the TV ads) that isn’t all. I am committed to a reprise of the Giant’s Head Run with Charlie in June. That makes FIVE really special races in the schedule and it has only just turned February.

I’ve already made posts about the First Half and Eugene so let me dodge ahead to October and the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon Weekend. It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that knows me, that I have a spot in my heart and race schedule for this event. My first ‘doing’ of this event was in 2000, when it was still the Royal Victoria Marathon. I made my marathon come-back there. Well, if you can call running  your second marathon a ‘come-back’.  In a way it was, since I ran the first one in 1988, wound up with a serious back problem and operation that happened in May of 1990. Then, later in that decade I just got so busy that I mostly didn’t race at all until about 1998. The time wasn’t totally without racing, but it was pretty sporadic. I ran but mostly did not race or train to race. I did actually start training for a marathon in 1991 while living/working in Brussels, Belgium, but it fell through for lack of training time.

Janna Finishing RVM, October 2000.

Janna Finishing her First Marathon. RVM, October 2000.

So, it took until October 2000 and a lot of serious intent to ‘get er done’, before Marathon #2 went into the books. Well since then I have run a total of six half marathons and 5 marathons and launched our Running in the Zone book, at Victoria. This year, as noted, I will run the 8K for the very first time and it will be special because I’ll be running with my new running buddy, Charlie. By October, it should be at least our third race together. I hope I will still be able to stay with him. In case it isn’t obvious, we are kind of going in opposite directions where it comes to running pace. I figure it is only a matter of time (and not much of it) until I’m saying “See you at the finish” and meaning “Please wait for me at the finish”. I suppose it isn’t that I’m losing ground at such a rapid pace, but I know Charlie is going to get faster, and soon. If I had to predict, it would be something like this. In 2015 in the Giant’s Head Run, I had to pace to Charlie’s current capability. In 2016, I am kind of betting we may be on somewhat the same level. By October, he may have to slow down for me. Maybe not quite yet, but soon. As I said, we are kind of moving in opposite directions, but that is a good thing.

Danielle, Dan and Janna 2007 at Victoria Marathon

Danielle, Dan and Janna 2007 at Victoria Marathon

If that wasn’t enough, it is going to be a full-on family running weekend! Out of the 11 previous Victoria appearances, most have involved one or the other of our daughters (Danielle and Janna) and sometimes both. And, while I was running my second marathon, Janna was running her first! That was a big event for all of us. Not only did Janna and I run our first marathon together, it inspired Danielle to take on the challenge of the marathon a year later in Toronto. I recently added up the total for the extended family and all together, counting kids and spouses of kids plus me, our full marathon count has now reached 36! Not even going to bother to check but our half marathons are probably pushing 100. The family that runs together……………….

Our son lives in Victoria and has agreed that he will get in the spirit and do the 8K too. Danielle and Janna and their families will be there. Both sons-in-law run and wife Judi is ready to take on a challenging walk. Right now, details are still being sorted. Danielle is registered for the Half and Charlie and I are registered for the 8K. Everybody else is thinking about the distance they might do. But, I do know hotels have been booked, so it is definitely on. I know one son-in-law is looking for another marathon to do, but not too likely this is going to be the one because of his schedule. We have one grandson too young to run and with race rules prohibiting strollers, is unable to ride. So, there still needs to be some sorting of who is running what and who looks after Jonah. However it works out, this is going to be one big family celebration of running! Going to be a highlight of my year for sure.

Bob's Border Busters - Hood to Coast 1987

Bob’s Border Busters – Hood to Coast 1987

Backing up a bit, Hood to Coast will be a great event for me too. The first time was in 1987. This will be the ninth, but they were not evenly spaced. Number Two was 1989, but Number Three was in 2006. There have certainly been a lot of changes including numbers of teams and even the finish location, which naturally means the route too, especially from Portland onward. In the early days it was JUST the Hood to Coast Relay. The Portland to Coast and High School Challenge were added later. With more and more teams it got harder to get in and this last round, it took three attempts to secure a place. The nature of the race has changed too, from what might have been somewhat of a rolling party to something fairly tightly scripted. What hasn’t changed is the attitude of fun on the run. A big part of the fun for me is the planning.

Ready to Start Hood to Coast - 1989

Ready to Start Hood to Coast – 1989

Back in 1989 I ran Leg #1 and it is the fastest sustained pace I’ve ever run over a distance (about 5.5 miles). It was glorious and I bask in the memory of it. Now, I have fun with trying to get all the team members into the best leg set for both them and the team. It is getting to be time to start doing that, even if the relay is still many months away. Oh yeah!  Hours of Fun! Oh, and it looks a lot like I’ll be giving myself Leg #1 again. No, I’m not trying to relive past glory. If you don’t mind running steep, sustained downhill (the actual Leg One) then it is the right place for the oldest, slowest runner on the team. Funny enough, although the post-Portland Leg #1 route has changed and was a bit longer back in 1989, I ran it then because I was one of the slowest on our team, even if I did come down that hill at a pace of 5:59/mile. That’s right. On that team, I was one of the ‘slow’ guys. We came 19th in Men’s Open, and those were the days of crack teams put together by Nike and others, using the very best from their stable of distance runners. That included such people as Alberto Salazar. Today, the ‘pointy end’ of the relay still involves amazing runners, but not quite like those days. Did I mention we came 19th in Men’s Open?

There are several other races that are fairly special to me and I’m working on the plans to get them into the schedule. Some involve travel outside Canada and that is not inexpensive these days, so we will have to see what we will have to see. Guess you might think I’m being a bit greedy considering the great line-up of special races already ‘on tap’!

So, that is it for my plans for the moment. What does your 2016 look like? Hope you are heading for as special a year as I expect to have!


pacific road runners - bright blue

A Well Recognized Logo!

The short answer is YES.

People who know me, this blog and the race, also know this post was to be anticipated. Unlike some races I am known to love and promote unofficially, The “First Half” Half Marathon sold out months ago. Registration will not be impacted by even one runner through the words of this blog. One thing that might is VOLUNTEERS. Unlike most races of its size these days (over 2000 finishers), this is still a 100% club organized and volunteer delivered event, supported by super generous partners such as Forerunners (from day one) and Mizuno (now with the race for some eight years). Excess proceeds from the race go to Variety – The Children’s Charity and now total well in excess of $650,000!

Pre-race crowd FHHM2014

Pre-race crowd FHHM2014

For the first 20 years, members of Pacific Road Runners (“the Club”) were not allowed to run the First Half. We all had to be the core of the volunteer brigade. It did create a bit of a tension in that some really good local runners were prevented from running what is arguably Vancouver’s best half marathon. Oh, don’t get me wrong, there are some fine races here, but the First Half is still the only half marathon that sells out over 2000 spots in 24 hours or less. I see that as a direct vote by runners. Some might argue that having been Race Director for several years and stage MC ever since, that I could be biased. Could be.

Anyway, it just happened that when I took over RD duties, it was coming up on the 20th Anniversary of the race. I decided an experiment was in order and the Race Committee agreed. On a one and done special deal, we would let five PRR members run (chosen by lottery) as long as they got their volunteer hours in before or after the race. Well, long story short, it worked just fine and we did not have to invoke the ‘special circumstance’ argument to return to the old policy. A small number of club members now get to run each year. A big plus is that PRR gets a runner’s eye view of why the event is held so high in the collective opinion of the running community and to keep a direct eye on any issues on course.

Normally, this post is all about what a great race it is shaping up to be and how hard everyone works and wishing runners well. All that still stands, but this time I have something very major and personal to announce. For the first time ever, maybe the ONLY time, I will be running the First Half.

For the weather, this is kind of what I had in mind for race day.

For the weather, this is kind of what I had in mind for race day.

I will put down my microphone and lace up my running shoes and find out first hand, just what it is all about. I am hoping that the running gods will favour me with one of those great running days for this experience. My argument to the current RD was basically that I wanted to do the race (please and pretty please) while I am still able. Not to be morbid, but I just had my 71st birthday and at that age your next injury might just be the last. I am very excited to have this opportunity and intend to take full advantage the experience!

Forerunners Pace Group Leaders at Eugene Marathon 2015

Forerunners Pace Group Leaders at Eugene Marathon 2015

I continue as a pace group leader at the Forerunners Saturday First Half clinic, but instead of telling tales of the event to those who will be running, I am now sharing my own excitement at being ONE OF THEM. While I’ve never run the race, I’ve run almost every part of the course at one time or another. The difference now is that I am not just giving advice to the pace group runners, I am making my own plans and strategies on how to approach each segment.

There are probably only two ways for me to run this race. One would be to just go really easy and take a couple of photographs (if weather is as spectacular is it has sometimes been), talk to volunteers and other runners and just make it a celebration. The other is to honour this race that has hosted so many of Canada’s top distance runners over the years, and do the very best I can. That means training well and running the race for time. Guess which one I will be doing! I’ll save the celebratory run for if I ever manage to BQ.

Now don’t get the wrong idea when I say I will ‘run for time’. Nobody at the pointy end of the race has anything to worry about, probably not even the better runners in my own age group, for that matter. Although I am thrilled to get a podium place when I can, I have mostly run against myself throughout my racing years. So, when I say I will run for time, it will just be the best time I can produce. Only I will know for sure how successfully I will pull that off. Whatever, I do intend to take this race as seriously as any race I’ve done in a long time.

Dylan Wykes (yellow and black) FHHM 2015 winner and event record holder.

Dylan Wykes (yellow and black) FHHM 2015 winner and event record holder.

I will be writing about the race again, nearer to the event. While I am a great proponent for running for your own reasons and to your own standards, I also have a deep love and appreciation of excellence. So, once we know who the top prospects will be, I will be talking about that a bit. This year being an Olympic year and a couple of our better runners and event winners not having yet qualified for the marathon, there may be some race strategy determining who will run and how fast. More on that when we get closer. As a teaser though, here is a list of former First Half winners. For the men: Peter Butler (won the very first First Half), Carey Nelson, Colin Dignum (2X), Phil Ellis (2X), Norm Tinkham (2X), Art Boileau (3X), Bruce Deacon (5X and record holder 1992 – 2007), Ryan Hayden (2X and record 2007), Rob Watson (2X) and Dylan Wykes (3X and current First Half record holder at 1:04:21, set in 2012).

Dayna Pidhoresky hits the tape for the 2015 Win.

Dayna Pidhoresky hits the tape for the 2015 Win.

On the women’s side: Isabelle Dittberner (won the first First Half and again in 1993), Lisa Harvey (4X), Tina Connelly (3X and event record holder at 1:12:47, set in 2004), Natasha Wodak (2X), Lucy Smith (2X) plus several notable one time winners including Ellie Greenwood, Leah Pells and Sylviane Puntous. For those who might remember, the Puntous twins were world class Triathletes, but also very good runners. They were famous for finishing One-Two and the 1991 First Half was no exception with Sylviane first at 1:15:08 and Patricia second in 1:15:13. The family that runs together…..

One should never get the impression that these wins were the complete record for these athletes. I only listed the wins, but many of these fine runners recorded other podium finishes as well and some went on to win the Masters division. And, the book is still open on the current crop of elites as to how many more First Half wins and podium places they will record.

BJ (Betty Jean) McHugh heads back through the Start and on to the Seawall

BJ (Betty Jean) McHugh heads back through the Start and on to the Seawall

The event has also been graced by the presence of some amazing older athletes, first among them being BJ (Betty Jean) McHugh, a regular at the First Half and an inspiration to all. According to the records posted at the First Half web site, BJ holds the age group records for W60-64 through W80+. The times range from 1:39:40 for W60-64 to 2:07:07 for W80+ (by my calculation, done when she was 82). Another runner of note is Herb Phillips who posted a record time of 1:23:19 for M65-69. I almost hesitate on mentioning these few people because it leaves out so many other superb athletes.

Everybody must now go to the Start!

Everybody must now go to the Start!

I would be remiss in not mentioning that a huge number of the less noteworthy runners out there are doing their own amazing races. I will tell just one story here but think it sums things up and because it was personal and moving for me. I guess it is also a great example of why we all need to give back to the sport we love. As I usually do when being stage MC, last year, after making the final announcement that the race was about to start, I went out to actually watch the start of the race. My usual spot is at Pacific and Davie, about 200m down-course from the starting line. You can get some great photographs from that point, and for no extra cost, if you just wait a few minutes, everybody comes right back past that location after the initial approximately one mile loop around BC Place. Because things start to string out a bit, it is also a great place to spot people you know.

Random mid-pack photo from around the time the following happened. FHHM 2015

Random mid-pack photo from around the time the following happened. FHHM 2015

I was standing there cheering and photographing and chatting with Karen and Peter Butler from Forerunners and my co-MC, Anjulie Latta (who actually has a personal link to what now follows).  The elites had passed by as well as a good many strong runners, when all of a sudden a young woman dashed over to me yelling as she came, “Are you Dan??” Having no time to think of why I might deny it, I said “YES”. She proceeded to give me a big hug and thank me profusely for getting her where she was (running the First Half). So, here is the deal. Several years before I had been her Sun Run InTraining Clinic Coordinator and had helped her get started on the road to running. Anjulie, as it happens, was the Area Coordinator at the time and thereby, my ‘boss’. The conversation was brief as you might imagine, but this young woman told me she had done every Sun Run since that first clinic and some 11 half marathons to boot!  Then, she was gone. The whole thing took just a few seconds, but it was very emotional for me and apparently for her because it was important enough for her to run off course to thank me. It made me realize that contributing what you can to assist others can have an impact far beyond anything you might imagine. No, not every time and not for everyone, but often enough and to a level most of us would never understand. I cried a little.

And for all of this, and because so many work so hard to put on this race, I just have to give it my very best come February 14, 2016!



Ten easy steps? Who writes these ‘headlines’???

Medals representing ten races and a couple of podium finishes

Medals representing ten races and a couple of podium finishes

While this old blogger has no intention of putting the shoes in the closet until 2016, that IS where the racing flats are going. Racing is done for 2015. Training is NOT. I already have my first race of 2016 in my sights and it is one that I MUST train for as it requires all the respect I can manage: The First Half Half Marathon. It will be the first and probably only time I’ll run it, but that will be another story sometime closer to the actual event. So, what does the Title of this piece mean? Well, of the ten races run this year, the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon was the first, run on a gorgeous sunny morning in May. What a contrast that morning of May 3rd was to the year previous when rain pelted down on us at the start and then through the race (the MARATHON, no less). Nope, May 3rd was as close as you will get to perfect. I was really looking forward to that first 5K downhill that gets the Half started. It actually runs right through my old ‘hood’ and by the elementary school I attended so many decades ago. I just entered my 8th decade and was still in my first when I started Grade 3 at Edith Cavell.

Start of BMO Vancouver Half.

Start of BMO Vancouver Half.

Almost all of the first 5K has a delicious down slope. I had a plan for early 2015 and that was to ‘Level Up’ as a Half Fanatic. I joined Marathon Maniacs back in 2013 but decided I’d also join the Half Fanatics in 2015. Interestingly, notwithstanding that I’d run a lot of half marathons in my time, I had not put enough of them close enough together to qualify as a Fanatic. You can’t use marathons as qualifiers even though you can use races from actual half marathons right up to anything short of a marathon and on roads or trails as you please. I had seen a natural opportunity, starting with Vancouver, to take myself from the basic qualifying level (Neptune) to Level Four (Jupiter). Details will follow, but the plan involved running four halfs or better in a total of 15 days. I mention this because you must clearly pace yourself and not get too excited in any given race. I suppose running the first 5K of Vancouver pretty much as hard as my hairy old legs would go, would not actually qualify as ‘pacing myself’. Still, it was an intentional decision. I knew very well that I would have to back off or pay dearly, if not that day, then surely sometime in the two weeks to follow. I have to say it was fun while it lasted though and was my fastest 5K (even if it was a split) since 2010.

Forerunners gang at Eugene Marathon

Forerunners gang at Eugene Marathon

The next of the four races was the Eugene Half Marathon on May 10. It was another pretty nice racing day, although maybe just a touch warmer than previous Eugene Marathons I’ve experienced. What made this one fabulous, apart from the fact that it is one top notch racing event, was that something like 28 of my Forerunners Clinic friends had chosen to do this one. We had a ball meeting up and comparing notes. Results were spectacular for the group with multiple PB and BQ performances. Of course my result was a tad bit slower, being second of the four races I was to run to achieve my Jupiter status.

Getting ready for the Sage Rat Half

Getting ready for the Sage Rat Half

The next week I somehow found a small race weekend in/near Prosser, WA. Let me say if you want a fun and family oriented weekend racing event, the Sage Rat Run is something you will want to look at. I had chosen the Sage Rat Half Marathon for Saturday, May 16 and the Dirty Rat 25K on Sunday, May 17. And, yes it was my first back to back races of such distance. Some felt it might be a first sign of senility, but I assure that on Sunday I was able to remember pretty much every step of the half marathon done the day before! Especially as I made my way up the 1,000ft climb that begins the Dirty Rat 25K. Until I reached the plateau at the top of that climb, I was probably first among those questioning my own soundness of mind (and body).

When all, and I do mean ALL, was said and done, I had run four half marathons (or better) in 15 days and had attained my Half Fanatic Level Four status. And, I suppose in an attempt to prove that I haven’t totally ‘lost it’, I have no intention of pushing to a higher level in either Marathon Maniacs or Half Fanatics. Really, I don’t!

Celebrating our first race done together!

Celebrating our first race done together!

I took a well-deserved rest until early June, when I ran a true career highlight race – the Giant’s Head Run. It is a quirky little race, being not 5K, but rather 5.4K. It was one of (if not THE) first races I ever did, way back around 1984 or 1985 when we lived in Summerland, BC, where the Giant’s Head Run has taken place for many years. Although the course has not really changed, it seems the distance has, or at least got more accurately measured. Whatever, the point was I ran it with our grandson, Charlie. It was our first race together, but hopefully not our last. Charlie says we are doing it again in 2016, so who am I to argue? The complete story can be seen HERE. That was June 6th.

2015 was to be ‘The Year of the Half’ and a race I have done at least six or seven times is at the end of June, the Canada Running Series, Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon. Obviously, I think it is a good race to run, but this time decided to change it up a bit (being still a little drained from the exploits of early May) so opted for the 5K event instead. In hind-sight, my decision was brilliant. It was one very warm day! Running 5K looked like a very sound decision, and it was kind of fun. With all my longer distance racing goals of the last couple of years, running a 5K was truly something different.

Judi and me at Big Cottonwood Package Pickup.

Judi and me at Big Cottonwood Package Pickup.

At the end of June, I had my second cataract surgery, requiring three weeks of no sweat life, literally – NO sweating allowed. That was followed by some travel, complete with challenges for running, although I got a fair few in despite other demands on time and strange territory. All of this notwithstanding, my surgery date was moved up 3-4 weeks re the original plan. We had booked in for the Revel Big Cottonwood Half Marathon in early September. Both my wife, Judi, and I were going to do the Half. She is an avid walker and Big Cottonwood has a time structure that welcomes walkers. I felt that the downhill nature of this course was an opportunity to book a pretty nice half time. HOWEVER. With the change in surgery date and changes to the course that seemed to make it easier for someone who loves running down, I was seduced into running the marathon (again). There was just enough time to train up, even if it would be to minimal readiness. I couldn’t pass the chance and knew I was taking a chance. I kind of lost the bet in the end, but don’t regret the decision a bit. What the heck, I can at least say I ran a marathon at age 70!

A really WET turkey, trotting!

A really WET turkey, trotting!

While the Goodlife Victoria Marathon (weekend) has been a family ‘go to’ race for many years, I would have been all alone this time. I realized that I had an opportunity to run two races I had never done before and to add a couple of 10Ks to the list for 2015. First up was the Granville Island Turkey Trot. The main reason I’d never done it, despite the fact that we lived right beside Granville Island for a bunch of years, was that we were always in Victoria for either the half or full marathon the day before. Apart from the fact that I have seldom raced in such wet conditions, the race itself was great fun and I got to see a lot of people I hadn’t seen for some time.

The next ‘new’ race was the James Cunningham Seawall 10K. For no particular reason, I had never done that race. Of course, one reason was that while it has been going for decades, we didn’t live in or near Vancouver for a good part of that time. Although for most of its life it was not a 10K, upon being amalgamated into the Rock ‘n’ Roll series, it was tweaked up to a full 10K distance in 2014. The first year it was run in tandem with the Oasis Vancouver Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon (I ran the inaugural Half), but in 2015 it was moved out to Saturday thus allowing anyone who wanted to do so, to run both. My May experience of completing the Rat Deux being the back to back event for 2015, I passed on the opportunity. That was the last weekend of October and let me just say that it was truly fun to race the full Seawall, something I’ve never done, even though I’ve run many races that use part of it. While it was a wee bit cool at the start, it was another great running day, and for the second time in 2015 I got to do a race with Judi, who walked.

Dawn breaking over Negril and the Reggae Marathon course.

Dawn breaking over Negril and the Reggae Marathon course.

That brought me down to my final event of the year, the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K. It is a long story with many facets to explain the whys and wherefores of it, but I am on a five year streak of doing that race. Negril, JA calls itself the Capital of Casual, and that whole vibe is surely part of it. So are the friends made and maintained through the Reggae Marathon. One thing I know for sure, even though the course is pancake flat, you don’t run it for time. Even if it does start in the relatively cool pre-dawn, it is still 23C up to 26C (this year) at the start. But, time is never what it is about for most people and the race continues to grow, reaching some 2300 registrants in 2015.

My 2015 experience at Reggae Marathon, as most call it regardless of actual distance run (- in my case this year, 10K) was once again right at the top of the heap of races for me. I really wanted to have a podium finish, being the young guy in my new M70-74 age group and was thrilled to come second, and NO, not second out of two! It appears that six started and at least five finished. Except that it was just a very personal ‘completion’ sort of goal, finishing on the podium was really neither here nor there in the great scheme of things, but I was still thrilled to be able to do it.

So, that was it for 2015. Ten races in all, each with a different purpose and pretty much every one of them with a deeper personal meaning than just another race to add to the total. At my age it is nice, maybe even important, to be running for some reason other than to add to the statistics. Oh, anybody who knows me or follows this blog will be well aware that I AM all about the stats, in terms of keeping track. That said, I don’t run races FOR the stats.

I am really not sure where I stand on total races run, but the number TWO HUNDRED is a reasonable estimate. Because I ran a lot of my early races in the mid-80s, I am fairly sure I’ve lost track of a few and have no way to go back and check. Never throwing anything away, I tend to have a pretty good idea how many I did from old logs and race results I still have, but it is really more of a minimum. Depending on how you score multi-leg relays, I am either just at around 200 races or well over and into the 220-225 area. The total itself doesn’t matter, other than maybe I’d like to celebrate a little when I go through 200 events, but it is a good many races and because I count 26 full marathons, one 50K ultra and at least 36 half marathons among the total, it is a considerable distance raced – some 1900km in those events alone. There are lots of 5Ks, 8Ks and 10Ks in there too, but they don’t add up nearly as fast! Whatever, let’s just say my races have covered a bit of distance over those many years.

Finishing the "Dirty Rat 25K" and doing my best "Bolt"

Finishing the “Dirty Rat 25K” and doing my best “Bolt”

Way back when I was middle-aged and just getting started in all this, and even though my PB times were fairly respectable, I was running with a bad crowd (fast) and never seemed to finish high up in my age group. I hatched a plot back then to just keep running until everybody else called it quits! I think it is starting to pay off! In 2015 I completed 10 races. Out of those ten, I managed five podium finishes with one first, three seconds and a third. Am I proud of coming first out of one at the Dirty Rat 25K? You bet! I was the one guy had the guts to get out and do it, and especially proud of the back to back, of which it was part. There were actually a couple of other races where I was fourth or fifth that just may have been superior results in that the field was considerable in size. Clearly, my times aren’t great, but I’m out there doing it and it is just plain fun to collect something more than the finisher medal from time to time.

Let’s face it, if racing isn’t fun, you should find a new hobby!


The Best I can Do? This was the night I ran the fastest I've ever run: 5:59/mile for 6 miles!

The Best I can Do? This was the night I ran the fastest I’ve ever run: 5:59/mile for 6 miles!

Interesting title, and like more than a few, inspired by something I saw on social media. So many times we talk about just wanting to run the best we are able. I know I say (and believe) that is my core goal and philosophy. As I have been writing and editing on the go, a supplemental question popped into my mind. Who cares? Well, I can deal with that one straight off: ME. I’m the only one who cares about what I do and how I do it, as it should be.

So, what does ‘the best I can do’ really mean? What does it mean to all those other people who also say it?

I ask that because I am a member of both Marathon Maniacs and Half Fanatics. The specific comment that got me started was a reply to someone worrying about how fast they were going in a marathon. The reply was along the lines of “well maybe right now, the best you CAN do is six hours”. Click! The light went on and I actually jotted this title down so I wouldn’t forget about it. That was a few days ago, but here I am ready to explore this.

I guess the first thing to say is that everything is relative. EVERYTHING!

I am very privileged to know a number of former and current elite runners. If you want to see excellence these are people of great note. Some of these people wrote for Running in the Zone, the book! Canadian distance runners are not at the moment, as fast as the best of the best. However, I am pretty certain that they are doing the best they can do. On any given day, even their ‘bests’ are not necessarily of the PB kind. That is racing. They ARE doing their best on that day under the conditions of the day and course, relative to the competition and relative to their physical condition (healthy/sick, a bit injured, in a build-up phase, etc.)

Finishing up my Marathon PB (1988)

Finishing up my Marathon PB (1988)

Naturally, I got thinking about myself and my own racing (and necessarily, training). What I do now on a best effort looks pretty lame compared to what I did at my peak, even to my best of five years ago. My best in 2015 is not, I feel, the actual best I could do under different circumstances, age notwithstanding. However, when you consider everything else in my life this year, maybe my race efforts have been my best under the circumstances. The funny thing is that I’ve had more podium finishes this year than ever before, but that has a lot to do with my ever advancing age and a new category. In 2015, I was the ‘young guy’ in M70-74. I also insist that after about 60, OK maybe 65, each year is more like dog years than human years. So, as a 70 year-old in that category, I am waaaaay ‘younger’ than some guy who is 74. Whatever, it has been fun, but I don’t kid myself that I’m getting better!

One of the things we all have to watch is comparing our ‘last race’ to our best ever. If your best ever was the race before last, well then, OK. However, if as is the case with me, your true best was some 27 years ago or so (see photo to the left), you are just silly to do anything but bask in the memory and let it go. That covers age, but there are a good many other factors that influence any given performance and whether or not you may have been doing the best you could in any given race. If you didn’t have to race until everything was just perfect, it might be easier to score PBs, but sadly, they insist on staging races on a given date, whatever the conditions and whether you or I are ‘ready’ or not.

And, the first race IS done!

And, the first race IS done!

If you will indulge me talking about myself for a bit, I want to use my last year as an example of how your ‘best’ fluctuates according to the conditions and situations. I suppose of the 10 races (actually, still have one of those 10 left to do) I did run one at someone else’s pace. That was my wonderful first race with my eight year-old (at the time) grandson. He even gave props to the old geezer when he told one of his friends that he ‘couldn’t have beaten me if he tried’. Trust me, that isn’t going to last much longer! We have already agreed to run the same race again in 2016. I imagine we might run our best efforts at just about the same pace, and then it will be done. Anytime after that, Charlie will have to wait for me.

So, what about 2015 and my string of races where I will claim I did do my ‘best’, even if the results don’t much look like it, taken in isolation?

Medals from the races that made me a Level 4 Fanatic

Medals from the races that made me a Level 4 Fanatic

The year started with a Half Fanatic goal to ‘moon up’ from the base level of ONE moon (Neptune) to FOUR moons (Jupiter). In both Marathon Maniacs and Half Fanatics, it is volume that counts not pace. All level criteria are based on X races in Y days or months. You can go as fast or slow as you want or are able. In my case, I selected four half marathons (actually, the last one was a 25K trail event) completed in 15 days. Two of them were back to back (Saturday for the Half and Sunday for the 25K). The races were BMO Vancouver (Half) Marathon, Eugene Half Marathon, Sage Rat Half Marathon and Dirty Rat 25K. First race was Vancouver on May 3 and the fourth was the Dirty Rat 25K on May 17.  I am pretty sure that anybody setting out to race four half marathons in that short a time would need to adjust pace a little. I know that anybody my age would!

Adjust I did. Oh, and because I knew that these four races had to be done with a little less aggression than normal, I had to be ready to accept that even the first result, would be much slower than the last half I had done only a few months before, in late 2014. Uuuumm, and then there was the ever so tempting first 5K, deliciously downhill, at the Vancouver Half. I intentionally raced for my split time (knowing full well that I would pay for it later, which I DID). Something that I did find interesting was that the first three actual half marathons were a week apart in each case and in each case I lost almost exactly four minutes on the previous race. We won’t count the 25K as it was longer and there was a 1000ft vertical in the first couple of miles on that one. Talk about apples and oranges!

In any case, I actually did a calculated ‘best’ effort in each race even if the times taken alone for each event would hardly look like it. Circumstances and a longer term goal.

2013 Marathons and Ultra for Silver Level Maniac Status

2013 Marathons and Ultra for Silver Level Maniac Status

I could go back to 2013 too, when I decided that the base level for Marathon Maniacs (one star or Bronze) was not quite enough and set my goals to run six marathons in six months to move up to two stars or Silver. (FWIW there are ten levels in both Maniac and Fanatic criteria.) In case you might be wondering, I am now done with seeking higher levels in either group, but I am officially a Double Agent, so there’s that. The point is that running six marathons (one was a 50K) in that period of time, again meant that each was a little compromised to the greater goal.

Moving on, later in June of 2015 I decided it was time to see how a shorter distance might work and ran the 5K associated with the Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon. I felt I had recovered from the half marathon crusade and could push my 5K effort. I feel I did give it everything I could, but it was a rather warm day. The time was decent but not as fast as it might have been in more ideal conditions. Circumstances.

Big Cottonwood Marathon

Big Cottonwood Marathon

Oh, and just to make the year interesting, I had two bouts of eye surgery to remove cataracts, a fabulous thing, but each time it cost me three weeks of total inactivity where it came to training. In September I decided to get back to racing and that took the form of the Big Cottonwood Marathon. Now, the event had actually been booked way early in the year, but at half marathon distance. I do love me a downhill course and the Big Cottonwood Half just rolls down, the whole way. Everything was fine until my eye surgery got moved up by three or four weeks. All of a sudden, I had (minimal) time to train for the marathon. AND, they took some four (difficult) miles or so out of the lower part of the marathon course and pushed it about 1500ft further up the mountain! I won’t go into more detail. If you really want to hear more, you can look HERE. Anyway, I decided that since the race was so far away (Utah) and I probably wouldn’t be doing it again, I would go for the full marathon and accept whatever happened. I knew I could have an amazing half marathon result but wanted a really special marathon finish in this year of being 70. Didn’t happen. Combination of circumstances, conditions and situation, but I DID do my best and don’t regret the last minute switch. I knew I was taking a chance on the outcome. My actual half split was 2:21:13 and if I teased out my best 21.1K (because the official time includes about 5 minutes of porto-potty stop time), it turns out to be about 2:15, but run within the context of a marathon, i.e. with some constraint. In other words, my original plan for a good half was definitely justified and speculatively might have been around 2:10 or so. We’ll never know. I made a different decision, and that is part of this whole thing, too. We all make decisions from time to time, to run one race vs another, to run in less than ideal conditions, to run without optimal training, or with too many races already in our legs.

A little damp it was, this day!

A little damp it was, this day!

Well then I turned my sights to a couple of 10K races I’d never done before, starting with the Granville Island Turkey Trot. This one was OK for time (would have liked a minute or two faster) but there was that marathon done less than a month previous and the rain. The RAIN!!! I don’t know that I’ve ever been much wetter in a race. So, circumstances and conditions, and yet the best I could do on the day.

And, I’m not making excuses. I’m trying to point out that hitting that sweet spot of training, course and race conditions isn’t all that easy to manage. Still, I can honestly say I did my best in each event, and if you can say that, you can be satisfied with your result.

Enough of that, or at least, enough about me.

Going back to the on-line comment about the six hour marathoner (a ‘she’ as I recall), I don’t know much more about her circumstances or how she came to the race in terms of previous exertions (she is a Marathon Maniac) or even what her goal was. She could have been injured or just coming back from something (no such info was included). However the fellow who commented that maybe it was her best on that day hit it right on the head, at least from a philosophical point of view.

Lead Women - Boston Marathon 2009 - Being Fierce

Lead Women – Boston Marathon 2009 – Being Fierce

Sometimes the focus, moving now to the competitive racer (I was going to say ‘elite’ but it applies more broadly), is on winning. Time is something we all focus on in judging our results, but when you are competitive, winning can often be more important. When you find yourself in a relatively balanced field, in a race you want to win, race strategy is more important than time. Your ‘best’ becomes something else and judged on a different scale. As I noted earlier, my podium placements this year have been quite fun, but as a mid to back of pack runner, seldom do I know who I am actually racing. Most often I just have to lay down my best and let it be what it is. A few times over the years I have either known (or thought I did) who the competition was and could race head to head. Those races were kind of fun! The easiest example to understand the difference between PB or even record time and going for the win, is something like a runner chasing Olympic Gold or winning the Boston Marathon.  The WIN is everything. Running fast (relative term) is secondary. A heroic effort that leaves you second or even right out of the ‘money’ means nothing. Make no mistake though, strategic races do involve a best effort.

Everything is relative. At the top end we have the world elite runner. Results are pretty ‘pure’ and simple to understand. Everybody runs as hard as they can and somebody wins or sets a new World Record. What about the rest of us who will have an asterisk beside anything we do? I’m thinking of the best Masters runner. I’m thinking of Age Class winners or Single Age record holders. Raw time is not in the same class as the ‘Open’ elite runner, since we undeniably fade with time. What about an Ed Whitlock? He recorded times in his late 70s, early 80s that when age graded, rated higher than the then World Marathon Record. A friend and local runner here in Vancouver, BJ (Betty Jean) McHugh pretty much sets a new single age record every time she runs a half or full marathon. BJ just turned 88 and is gearing up to run the Honolulu Marathon in a few days. She will take more than five hours I would think, but remember how all this started? I was talking about a much younger woman wondering if her six hour marathon was OK. I’m pretty sure she was a long way shy of 88! The important thing is that BJ respects the events and trains and will turn in her best effort in Honolulu and I assure you that you can count on that regardless of what her actual time turns out to be. As I recall, last year it was 5:36. But, of course, last year she was only 87.

New York City Marathon

New York City Marathon

Some people run with disabilities. Some aren’t so very athletically made and just run for their own satisfaction. That doesn’t mean they aren’t being the best they can be. To me, that is what makes running so compelling. I don’t need to beat anyone else to know I’ve done my best. Some say you only need to ‘beat yourself’. That can be true, but when you reach my age and you are still going, you have to ask “which self would that be?”. It certainly isn’t the ‘self’ that recorded his PB marathon (OK, PB marathon, half, 10K, 5K) back when he was 43/44. Having decided to keep track of 5-year records, it probably will seldom be the ‘self’ that recorded records for the previous 5-year age grouping. It could be the self that ran the last half marathon or 10K or whatever race he did. It also isn’t totally impossible to better previous times. When I was 65 I was on a racing/training roll that saw me do my third best (raw) marathon and second best age graded. It was a stellar year because of good health and hard training and maybe, just maybe, doing the right race on the right day.

Personally, one of the main ways I keep up with a ‘better me’ is the % Performance value you get with age grading. I figure if my annual bests stay in the same range, I am doing well. This year was not great on that basis, but I don’t know if it was the circumstances described above, or just me getting older and more feeble.

I intend that next year’s racing be quite selective, so we will have to see if my performances improve or if the ‘fade’ continues. It should keep me amused, if no-one else.



Judi and me at Package Pickup.

Judi and me at Package Pickup.

Well, it has been a busy few weeks. Haven’t been writing about running much, but I HAVE been running, a marathon no less. It was kind of an accident. More later.

I’ve talked about this before, but I do need to stop life from getting in the way of my running stuff. Now some may not see a problem with a lower rate of production on this old blog, so we’ll just leave that part and carry on.

Grandad telling Jonah all about running

Grandad telling Jonah all about running

Also, one of the “interruptions” is sitting on my lap here and HE can get in the way any old time he wants!!! Have been having a wonderful visit the last couple of weeks. Even got in a run with his Mom!

I have spent a little bit of the ‘quiet’ time re this blog, getting registered for three more races between now and early December. Part of this post is about the thinking I’ve been doing on running now that I’m a septuagenarian. Two of the races I just registered for are ones, even though they are in Vancouver, that I’ve never run! First is the Granville Island Turkey Trot. That’s right, never ran it. We are usually in Victoria for Marathon Weekend or on our way back. The other is the James Cunningham Seawall Race. Never did it either. No idea why on that one. As for the third event, it is a perennial favourite – The Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K in Negril, JA.

Will I run any others? Maybe. Not sure. Whatever, this plan would take me to 10 races in 2015, which isn’t too awfully bad: 1 marathon, 3 half marathons,  a 25K road/trail race, 2 10Ks and 2 5Ks, plus one more to be named later. At the moment I’m thinking to just take it really easy in Negril and do the 10K, but I usually do the Half, so we’ll just have to see how that goes.

Sun was up! Just so deep in the Canyon it looked dark. Photo Credit - Big Cottonwood Marathon

Sun was up! Just so deep in the Canyon it looked dark. Photo Credit – Big Cottonwood Marathon

The marathon (Big Cottonwood Marathon) was supposed to be a Half, but I’ve already talked on this blog about the possible switch. Long story short, I could not pass the opportunity to give it a go. So, I guess it wasn’t really an ‘accident’ when you come right down to it. Came 4th M70-74 but we aren’t much going to talk about the time. Even still, I have zero regrets. I probably could have had a very fine half marathon time in the 2:05 – 2:07 range, but the race has potential for an excellent marathon time and it is too far and costly to just keep going back. Also, at my age you shouldn’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today. As far as the time went I probably made two mistakes. I was not super well trained due to the on-off nature of my running this year, what with the interruptions for eye surgery and a bunch of travel. Not an excuse, just reality. Still, I thought I was close enough and it became a calculated risk. The other matter was that the organizers ‘seduced’ me by cutting the four toughest miles out of the euphemistically described ‘net zero out and back’ near the end, and pushing them higher up the canyon at the start. That was good from the point of view of making it nice easy downhill for the most part, but I think I may have underestimated the difference of starting at 9700ft vs 8000ft, and the not so nice mile at about 3 miles into the race and still at about 8000ft. It felt OK while I was doing it, but I did notice more huffing and puffing than I expected. I think the extra effort piled up in the later stages. I ran well to 20 miles, including doing that tough mile way up the mountain pretty much as planned, (yeah, yeah, I know – everybody says that about the first 20) but then in the next couple of miles I pretty much just seized up. The last three miles was all walking because even a couple of running strides was enough to start cramping in my calves. So, walk it was. It was a fabulous day and I knew it would either be an amazing time or exactly what it turned out to be. So, I walked it home and collected my 26th full marathon finisher medal, and smiled. OK, the smile might have come a bit later. Crossing the line might have been more of a grimace, but I was quite happy.

Gratuitous photo of Reggae Marathon, 'cause I'm going again!

Gratuitous photo of Reggae Marathon, ’cause I’m going again!

I learned a long time ago, not to make future racing plans in the last few miles of the current marathon, even if it is going fairly well, and especially if it isn’t. Life is just crazy busy right now with a whole list of things I’m not going to go into, but I have promised myself a thorough review of my big goals for running and the longer term future of what running will mean specifically to me. I suppose a decision to do the two ‘never been done before’ races is part of that. Maybe the plan to run the 10K at the Reggae Marathon is also part of it, although that is still under consideration, as I said.

I THOUGHT Big Cottonwood 2014 was actually going to be my last marathon because it had gone so relatively well. I wanted to finish on a high note. Had a long talk with myself before changing distances for Big Cottonwood 2015, because I refused to come away sad or upset if it didn’t go well (read better than last year). As noted above, I knew it had the potential to end exactly as it did, so had to promise myself to just be glad I stepped up and took my shot. Don’t get the totally wrong idea. Notwithstanding that I wasn’t thrilled with the time, it wasn’t my worst marathon and far from worst on age graded basis. Still, BCM 2014 was sixth best (Age Graded) and 2015 came nowhere near that.

I am writing about all this because I think we all come to it at different times, to different degrees and in different ways. One of the contributions to Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes was written by Herb Phillips and covered exactly this subject. One of the people who has been very supportive of my running these last years is our Forerunners Clinic coach, Carey Nelson. Carey is a two time Olympian and a two-time knee surgery guy. I realized that while I never was anywhere near his class, he likely very much understands where my head is at this point as I contemplate giving up marathons and maybe even half marathons (mostly). At least twice, he has had to face and deal with that ‘times they are a’changin” moment. You can never really take the competition out of the boy (or girl), but at sometime you have to take the boy out of the competition. Even today, Carey is a terrific runner and he still trains hard/smart to race, but he doesn’t win races outright anymore. At some point in time he had to come to grips with that reality. So, even though we are, and have always been on totally different performance levels, I know he gets where I am, at this particular moment. Funny enough, as I get older I am actually picking up the age group podium finishes now and then, but I don’t kid myself much about how that is coming to happen. They call it attrition! That said, I’m pretty proud of being one of the few still going in their 70s. At least, re the Big Cottonwood race, it counts as a marathon done when I was 70! It is kind of funny that in reality, when I ran it in 2014, I was almost 70 – 69 years, 8 months and 7 days to be precise, but it sounds so much better to be able to just say “I ran a marathon when I was 70.”

The decision to ‘move on’ comes for different people at different times. Some quit when they just can’t do it anymore. Some quit when they can’t do it as well as the standard they set for themselves. Some love the whole thing so much they just keep going until some-THING or some-ONE (tells them it IS over). Still, that doesn’t mean you can just keep doing what you’ve been doing, and that is kind of where I am. It isn’t so much that I can’t do a marathon, but to properly prepare for one is getting to be really hard work and maybe more than this seventy year-old body is up to. If you don’t do the training, what you get is what I got in Salt Lake City a couple of weeks ago. As much and all as that was a specific and unusual situation and I’m happy enough overall, it isn’t how I want to do marathons. I always tell new marathoners ‘respect the distance’. Clearly I must do the same. And that means if you can’t do the training, you really shouldn’t do the race.

For me, right now, five hours is some kind of personal standard or performance barrier. Over five, not good. Under five, OK. Well under five, good. Now this is totally personal. I have a friend who is a fabulous runner. He is 8 years older than me and for him, that barrier, or more accurately, dividing point has been more like FOUR hours.

Marathon Maniac! Done my first and only 50K

Marathon Maniac! Done my first and only 50K

Everybody has his/her own personal ‘time’ and if you keep on keeping on, it has probably changed over the years. I belong to the Marathon Maniacs and I’m pretty sure some of them have never done a marathon under five hours. That is totally and absolutely fine. They do what they do (run a lot of marathons) and they are more than satisfied, and I’m happy for them. The goal those people set for themselves is different. However, I have – done marathons under five hours – way under (as has been noted here more than a couple of times). So, this is very personal, whether some of the Maniacs understand what I’m nattering about or not. I greatly admire people like another of our book contributors, Bob Dolphin (Maniac #32), who have completed literally hundreds of marathons. There is much to be said for the quantity goal vs speed. Taking Bob as an example, he was a pretty decent marathoner in much earlier days, but in recent years it has only been about the doing of it. I mean, Bob is in his 80s now. Good on him! Taking the other extreme of this line of thinking, most of the truly elite marathoners have only ever run a small handful of marathons. What they do is so hard, and the standard so terribly high, that a few is all they can really manage. Could they run more at times most of us would kill for? Of course. But, they can’t do what they aspire to for more than a few races.

I can’t imagine not running, but I can imagine racing a good deal less and maybe mostly the shorter distances. Full Disclosure: There is one marathon I may yet need to do. It is part of a project which I expect to start discussing soon. That one is more than a year away and it isn’t really MY project, so we will see what we will see.

How’s that for dangling something out there? For my part, it is more so you won’t all get all over me if Big Cottonwood 2015 isn’t actually my last. But, apart from that, I am seriously looking at maybe fewer races and shorter distances. I still have to decide whether part of that is pushing performance as I change my training and shorten the distances of the races. That is what I will give myself a bit of time to consider. That said, nothing is graved in stone. If the change works well, it is hard to say where it will lead. I may find that with fewer miles being logged, I have a lot more short-distance speed and might really bear down on the 5Ks. Or not. I might spend far less time racing and even more time volunteering and organizing. It could happen.

Charlie celebrates running into new territory (distance)!

Charlie celebrates running into new territory (distance)!

What I do know is that I loved running my first race this summer with our older grandson, Charlie. Now, Jonah is only 8 months old, so it will be a while yet before we can run together! Must keep in decent shape for that day!


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”!