category : ‘Uncategorized’


I WENT TO A RACE AND DIDN’T RUN

02.18.2014
First Half Start 2014

First Half Start 2014

Of course, I didn’t run! It was the First Half Half Marathon and I’ve never run it, ever. The Pacific Road Runners, who put on this fine event, count on club members to be the core of the volunteer group that makes it happen. The last few years I have had the pleasure

MC's First Half - Anjulie Latta and Dan Cumming

MC’s First Half – Anjulie Latta and Dan Cumming

of being one of the Stage MC’s along with Anjulie Latta. Before taking on MC duties, I had the privilege of being Race Director for four years.

My previous post was a preview of the upcoming race, so it seemed I should make a brief report.

Anyone who actually lives in Vancouver or the area knows how terrible the weather was leading up to the race, and I mean the night before, not a few days or anything like that. They also know how it was from about 2pm on in the afternoon of race day. BUT, anyone who was at the race knows how wonderfully the gods of running and weather smiled on the First Half.  OK, there were some breezes out there, but for the most part the 2000 participants ran in sunshine and under blue skies! Temperatures were cool, but not cold and the elites ran ‘singlets and shorts’ just showing that for mid-February it sure wasn’t bad!

Volunteers get post-race food ready while runners run

Volunteers get post-race food ready while runners run

Because I was pretty much stuck at the start/finish area, I took a lot of photographs and posted a First Half Album on Facebook on my personal page. Never tried linking to FB and so far, not so good. Will keep trying to create a working link. I particularly tried to show the ‘before’ ‘during’ and ‘after’ components generally not seen when we are out there running. In every race there are countless generous and selfless people working behind the scenes to look out for us runners. Courses get measured and then set out on race day. Safety considerations like barricades and signage must go out, along with water and electrolyte at the aid stations and the volunteers get out to ‘man’ the marshalling points and those water tables. Food gets prepared at the finish for when we are done, and the First Half DOES HAVE a well-earned reputation for the finish food. Stuff like race shirts, medals and the fabulous waterproof cover up jacket given out at the 25th First Half, must be ordered and received. When the race is done, results must be made available, prizes handed out to the ‘deserving’ and everyone’s accomplishment must be properly celebrated. But, it isn’t over until it’s over, and when the participants head home with their result, finisher medal, and great memories, the clean-up crew is just getting started. A big shout-out to those people because I was standing there when Roundhouse staff (the start/finish venue for the First Half) congratulated the RD on how fabulously we had swept in, swept up and swept out.

Races are what they are and you never know until they are done. I do know a lot of people achieved Personal Bests on Sunday – for some reason that is not unusual with this race, as noted in my last post. Almost everyone had a good race and a lot of fun. There sure seemed to be a lot of happy faces out there as we looked down from the stage. Maybe it was partly because of the amazing batch of give-away prizes we had as a result of race partner generosity. And speaking of generous partners, Variety – the Children’s Charity benefited with another donation of $50,000 this year. It is not my place to single out any of these partners (because there are so many), but it would be wrong not to mention Mizuno, Forerunners and Urban Fare. Mizuno has been with this race for a number of years now working in cooperation with PRR and Forerunners (involved since 1989 and therefore, all of the 25 years the First Half has run). Urban Fare is relatively new to the party, but I was told by race organizers that their inputs have been fabulous. One of my personal favourite partners (maybe because I like the generic product so much) is Ethical Bean Coffee. They haven’t been with the race since the First Half began, but they have been part of the event almost since Ethical Bean began. Coffee for 2000?  Sure, no problem.

Rob Watson - Wins 2014 First Half

Rob Watson – Wins 2014 First Half

The winner on the day was Rob Watson, who was defending champion. It may not have been the time he wanted, but perhaps just as well since he was coming off injury and Rob wound up running much of the race alone, notwithstanding the anticipated competition. Not bad for a guy who was ‘day to day’ prior to the race. The time looked pretty good to me at 1:06:39, and it not only took the win, but made Rob the BC  Half Marathon Champion for 2014. That goes nicely with the fact that he is the current Canadian Marathon Champion.

Natasha Wodak takes the Women's win.

Natasha Wodak takes the Women’s win.

The women’s race was won by Natasha Wodak (1:17:09). She was not defending champ from 2013 but took the win in 2012. The first place finish also makes her the BC Half Marathon Champ for 2014, so not a bad Sunday morning’s work!

I love excellence in almost everything and unapologetically celebrate our winners. However, there were nearly 2000 finishers this year and in their own way, each and every one is a winner, because for most of us it is about the being out there and the doing. I do love to run myself, but taking a turn every so often as I did this weekend to see it all from this other perspective is both enlightening and rewarding.  I have no idea how many first time half marathoners were out there or how many PB’s were run, but I know that those folks had something big to celebrate. Still, it is always personal and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The big advantage I had this Sunday was I got to glimpse the faces of all the winners who took part.

Looking forward to seeing everyone on February 15, 2015. PRR tells me you will need to be watching for the announcements on registration (hint – it will be early November) and that the free community seminar on running will take place October 29, 2014.

TIME FOR A ROUND-UP OF NEW NEWS AND SOME MEMORIES

01.30.2014

The extensive and elegant offices (our spare bedroom) and archives (our condo storage unit) of Running in the Zone have been undergoing some cleaning and organizing of late. This has brought to light a whole range of items that I just think need some air. Some are historical in the true sense and some in a personal sense. Either way, I was struck by some of these as being pretty relevant today.

Ellen Lloyd

Ellen Lloyd

In Memoriam. I am going to get the sad one out of the way first and out of respect. BC sport lost a true champion in the last few days in the person of Ellen Lloyd. She was active in so many areas including swimming and life-saving, but I knew her through running and the organization of running. The big (collective) item for us was something called the Okanagan Express Relay. Way back in the 1980′s I lived and ran in the Okanagan. That was where I met Ellen and RITZ co-editor, Steve King as well as a good many others. We ran together including in the first Okanagan Express Relay. What, you say, is the Okanagan Express Relay?

It was an Expo ’86 idea. The very first running of the relay was in early June 1986. Fifteen teams of 26 runners, started just outside the Expo ’86 East Gate and ran to a downtown park in Summerland, in the heart of the Okanagan. No big deal. Only about 450km. Many people were involved, but Ellen was the heart and sole of it. It was all reviewed after the first running, which was won, as I recall, by a team from Lions Gate Roadrunners, notwithstanding that the LA Police Department sent a crack team along to bring home the inaugural hardware. As fun as it was, there were issues. Long race. Too many runners needed to make a team. Even with so many runners, very long legs.

Hood to Coast 1987

Hood to Coast 1987

The next year a bunch of us made up a team and headed for Oregon and the Hood to Coast Relay, to see how they did it, and to promote the Okanagan Express. Again, Ellen was a driving force for this team and she brought in another Summerlander, Bob Brown, who just happened to own a car dealership in Penticton and who strongly supported running activity in the area, including sponsoring our team, “Bob’s Border Busters”. We had a ball and learned a lot. The photo here is actually Bob, handing off to Ellen at the third leg exchange for each of them. I am sorry to say that Bob passed away a few years back, so we have lost him too. But, this tribute is meant to be positive and to celebrate these lives and their contributions. And, a funny little story that happened just moments after this picture was taken was that Bob, who ran some but never raced, had a burning question for the rest of the team (well, except Ellen who was busy running). Seems that even though it was his third of three legs, only on this leg and only just before the photo was taken, he had passed someone. He was very excited about that but was also quite concerned about whether he had exhibited proper running etiquette. His question was essentially, “What do you say to someone when you pass them? Do you say sorry?” What?” We assured him didn’t have to say anything and that he had broken no rules and had exhibited no bad runner manners.

We brought back what we had learned and realized we could make it much easier by reducing members on a team and running multiple legs, actually having each member run a longer distance, but not all at once. We also changed the route, making the run a bit simpler and maybe safer. Rivalry among those participating was fabulous and fun was had by all. Sadly, it seemed that although the initial relay had almost twice as many teams (15) as the first Hood to Coast (8), it never grew. The 1987 Hood to Coast Relay was only the fifth running and they already had 500 teams. Reluctantly, it was concluded that the Okanagan Express would not continue. I am thrilled to say that I was able to participate in all three runnings and to be a part of the planning and organizing  group.

Vic Emery (Olympic Gold 1964 - Four-Man Bobsled)

Vic Emery (Olympic Gold 1964 – Four-Man Bobsled)

RITZ Gets Around. While on the subject of the Okanagan, I was thrilled to get an e-mail from Steve King with a photo attached of a Canadian sport hero, Vic Emery (Canadian 4-Man Bobsled Olympic Champion from 1964). There he is reading his copy of Running in the Zone and we hope, being inspired to continue with his competitive cross-country skiing, the reason he was in the Okanagan and visiting with Steve. Vic is now 80 years of age and still enjoying an active life as evidenced by his ski racing.

First Half Anniversary. In just a few days, it will be the 25th running of the First Half Half Marathon. As many know, I was privileged to be a race director for this event and one of ‘my’ races was the 20th First Half. We put out a race booklet with all kinds of interesting photographs and memories from the past.  One of the big items in terms of sponsorship, or partnering, is that from the very beginning Forerunners has supported this event. Most people do not really recall the first First Half in 1989, but Peter Butler does. He won it. Actually, he won it in an amazing time - too amazing. Somehow, that first course turned out to be about 800m short of  a half marathon. Oops. Well, he still won it, but the time will have to have an asterisk beside it, forever.

Looking through the booklet, I saw a photo of Forerunners clinic coach Carey Nelson (a much younger fella then), as he won the 1996 event with a time of 1:05:12. To put that in context, it is not the record time, but it is less than a minute slower than the existing record, currently held by Dylan Wykes, Canada’s second fastest marathoner behind Jerome Drayton, an honour Peter Butler held since 1986 until only recently. With the expected field this year, there is a very real chance that the First Half record is going to drop again, but as always that kind of thing depends on the day and the contestants and whether it is an all-out speed fest or a strategic race. More on that at a later time. The record was held for years (from 1992) by Bruce Deacon, but starting with Ryan Hayden (2007) and then twice by Dylan Wykes (2011, 2012) the time has been pushed down to its current 1:04:21.

Personal Past Glory. Naturally, a lot of the historical material I unearthed is pretty personal. I came across a few publications that had features on Running in the Zone (the book) contributors, including Maurice Tarrant, Lynn Kanuka and Steve King. I even found a Penticton Pounders Newsletter (Jan 1990) with a profile on ME! It was one of these who are you, what do you do, and how well do you do it. One question was: What are your long-term goals? My answer was: Continue to run for fun and health for at least the next 20 years. Here it is January 2014. Guess I can tick that one off the old ‘to do’ list! But, that doesn’t mean I’m quitting. Maybe I should just declare my intentions of carrying on for another 20. Maybe. Hey, if I start from 2010, I’ve already got four years done.

Something else I noted with interest was that although I didn’t know it at the time I had run all my PB’s for all the common distances from 5K to Marathon. While not spectacular, they weren’t bad: 3:24 for marathon, 42:43 for 10K, 19:25 for 5K, but in one of my narrative responses, I referred to myself as a ‘back of the packer’. In truth, I may have been exaggerating just a wee bit, but surely was not more than a slower mid-pack runner in the Okanagan running community of the day. I celebrate the participation aspect of running today, but did find it interesting to compare then and now.

Whole Lotta Hardware

Whole Lotta Hardware

A Box Full of Medals. In respect to both past and continuing glory, I finally rescued my race medals from a shoe box where they have lived for many years, or at least as long as I have had them. I’ve been looking for a display rack, but having failed to find what I wanted, decided I could make one myself. In the end I made two and unfortunately, or fortunately some might say, there are still quite a few medals still in the box. Putting all my marathon, and one 50K ultra, medals up was a no-brainer. I have run 22 actual marathons and one ultra. Unfortunately, the PB mentioned above was run in 1988 and nobody was giving out finisher medals. That is the only one for which there is no medal and the one I would really LIKE to have. Oh well, I know it is there even if nobody else can see it.

These medals (marathon) remind me of a question I have been asked fairly often in recent times, especially by new or aspiring marathoners. What is your favorite marathon?  Truth is, I haven’t run that many different marathons, tending to return to the scene of the crime. The left-most set of medals represent my four Vancouver Marathons and the next set my five Victoria Marathons. When I look carefully and count up unique events, I have run eleven. So, I am hardly a world authority. As any marathoner knows, each event is special in its own way. Nobody would deny that the New York City Marathon is something special. Beyond that I guess you’d have to say the matter is very personal. I suppose by shear medal count, I have voted five times for Victoria and it was the scene of me proving (to myself, as much as anything) after 12 years and a bout of back surgery, that I could still do a marathon. No denying it is a great event. My medal collection represents quite a range of events from New York with about 40,000 to a couple like Winthrop where the number of finishers hit only around 100. I find it surprisingly hard to give a straight answer to my eager questioners. These events are all special in their own way. I guess the best advice is pick one you really want to do and do it. They are all 42.2km.

After the marathons, the next obvious set is for races where I had a podium place and for which medals were given (left side lower rack). Actually, the plaque hanging under the medals is a podium finish – Third Place M65-69, Eugene Marathon 2010. I’m pretty proud of that one because there were 16 competitors in that age grouping. Then, my 8 Hood to Coast medals had to have a place to hang, dating from 1987 through 2013. The rest of the hooks available are occupied by medals of which I am fond for one reason or another, including the three medals given to participants when I was Race Director of the First Half, my Reggae Marathon medals (still missing the actual marathon one, though) and finally a whole batch of races that are special for their own reasons in my personal history. The best of these is probably the one from the Willis Greenaway Half Marathon (Willis being the person who inspired me to keep running as long as I have), followed by my Boston 5K medal from 2009. That was the inaugural year of this event and the year I accompanied our daughter Janna while she ran the Big Race.

Scaling Performance When You Can’t Win. Anyone who reads this blog knows how I feel about age grading as a means of comparing personal performance over the years. I do believe in, but don’t much advocate for, comparison with absolute performances by younger runners in any given race. Among the materials I came across was a piece entitled “The Big Leagues” from Runners World (February, 1990). It was all about heavy or “Huba Buba” runners, and by heavy I just mean people who are big, not overweight. It is a serious yet somewhat light-hearted look at running in weight rather than age divisions and has a table showing that someone weighing more than the feather-weight elite runners, is really disadvantaged by, even if they come by that weight just by being tall. In another article I once read that if you are a man and weigh more than 155 lb you need not apply to win anything, for the most part not even an age division in a competitive race.

The reason I found this interesting is that just recently I was alerted to a grading system from the University of Dayton that employs weight AND age to ‘adjust’ performance to some sort of common standard. The outcomes are interesting from my own perspective and study of the models. Using both the WMA age grading calculator of Howard Grubb and this new ‘double whammy’ system, I can say that age tends to create a bigger impact. Looking at both, results are pretty heartening for a guy like me. Even when I ran my PB’s, I was 43 or 44 and age had kicked in as a factor. Most of the time I have run, been healthy and well trained, my weight has been  185-186 lb or just under 85 kg. I’m not going to go into how wonderful all this seems to make me, but it sure provides an ego boost.  My main point is that some 25 years ago, people were very clear on the impact of weight and age on performance. Most of us run for the fun of it. We do what we do and that is just fine.

Well, I think that is it for today. You never can tell. Some of these things (well, the First Half, for sure) may become blog posts in their own right.

 

Running in the Zone: A Handbook For Seasoned Athletes is now available in e-book format from Trafford Publishing (see link).

REGGAE MARATHONERS READY TO ROLL

12.06.2013

Easy Skankin'

As I write this, pretty much everything is done but the running. Packages picked up, pasta consumed, beach checked. Some even got in a couple of practice runs. Negril is packed out with eager runners and walkers and supporters. More than ever before (three years for me) there seems to be a presence of Reggae Marathon people. Certainly, the place I am staying is full to the roof with us. I think the few staying at Rondel Village that aren’t part of the run are wondering what they got themselves into (in a good way, of course).  There has probably been fewer drinks consumed (if you don’t count water) on the beach today than any other day of the year. Tomorrow, however, as they say – IS another day!

Some are totally here for the fun of being a part of this great event. So many are returning. That says a lot about an event like this one. Some are here for serious running. That means different things to different people. In my own case this is my last race of 2014 and I am hoping for an improvement on my last year’s half marathon time. We’ll see how that goes. I do know I’m not alone with personal goals.

Chris Morales (That Runnin' Guy), Jetola (Turbojet) Anderson-Blair and Dan Cumming

What has struck me as I meet up with people is how many locations are represented including what I understand to be, more than 30 countries. However, regardless of our differences, we all have similarities as runners. Everyone wants to know what event you will do. The first timers know they are running in a tropical locale and are nervous about the possibility of high temperatures. For them, I am never going to say it isn’t warm in Negril. I mean, if it wasn’t, what would be the charm of a ‘beach’ marathon? What I do say is that you will never experience anything like the start when the air is relatively cool (not arm warmer, long-sleeve T cool) and full of amazing tropical scents from the trees and flowers.  But, the race organizers have never pretended this isn’t a warm event and provide plenty of hydration and cooling options along the way. Runners need to be responsible for making good use of the support, but it is surely there. Pacing is everything. Apart from the one ‘worry’ for newcomers, I think the big question is ‘how many times?’. Also, where are you from?’ ranks right up there. Although not really unique to this race, it is always easy to fall into conversation with other strangers, and one of those starter lines will generally do it.

Pasta Party Dec 6, 2013

So many people seem to have made friendships that get renewed at race time. At package pick-up and at the pasta party you see so many people greeting each other like long lost friends, generally (other than via the internet) they haven’t seen each other since last time. I sure know that to be true in my own case. I have been having a ball re-uniting with the Reggae Marathon ‘family’.

Lawrence Watson and Navin Sadarangani

I wanted to post something tonight before the race because of the vibe. It is so much a part of the charm of the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K. Once the races are over, trophies and ribbons given, coconut water and Red Stripe consumed, talk turns to special outcomes and this pre-race vibe can easily get overlooked. My solution: get the thoughts out now!

It is still early, but with a race start at 5:15am and pre-race preparations to be attended to and shuttling or walking to the actual start to be achieved, it will be an early rise. I imagine those of us from our hotel will hit the road no later than 4:30am (for us it is easier to walk than anything else, and makes a good warm-up). Alarm? I’m thinking 3:30am!?!  Yow!

Over and out until tomorrow!  Sleep tight Reggae Runners.

SELL-OUT PRR RUNNING SEMINAR SETS STAGE FOR FAST REGISTRATION

10.30.2013

The First Half Half Marathon  (registration link) is about to run its 25th edition of what is arguably the hottest running ticket in town.  Oh yes, there are bigger or at least potentially bigger events, including the newest one just announced for October 26, 2014, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Oasis Vancouver Half Marathon and the BMO Vancouver Marathon, but to date the only race of its size to sell out in less than a day is the First Half. It has done so for a number of years, starting with pre-race sell-outs some 10 years ago. As I write, registration is open and running. My job is to try to finish this post before registration closes!

PRR Running Seminar - Speakers

On October 28 Pacific Road Runners held the annual pre-registration running seminar at the Roundhouse Community Centre – aka the Start/Finish venue for the First Half. The race itself will take place on February 16, 2014. Today is when everything really officially kicks off, even if the race committee has been working behind the scenes to get things ready. Assuming a sell-out in the next hours (registration was at 50% of capacity before I even opened this file) the race organizing committee and pretty much the whole membership of PRR, plus a few notable others will begin the meticulous work to prepare another great running experience for all those able to participate.

It all began with the seminar where Race Director and MC, David Parker, welcomed a sell-out (can you sell out a free seminar?) crowd of about 250 to hear three speakers address some topics that might not be heard just every night of the week. We all love our ‘how to run a faster half’, ‘heel-strike vs mid-foot’ and ‘the secret training regimens of the elite’ topics. This year PRR took a different direction and judging by the questions, both tweeted and shouted out, suggested that the organizers hit it squarely on the head as far as worthy topics go.

Without rehashing everything each one said, the first speaker, Dr Jon Fleming got into the matter of sleep, including the when, how and how much of it all as it relates to realizing your best performance. The topic might have been about sleep, but I can assure you that nobody dozed off in this one, and it was clear that Jon had really just scratched the surface of the subject.

Second up was Larry Abbott who got into the matter of mental toughness and training the mind. I think we were all just a wee bit shocked as he slyly took us through a little Q&A on our training habits – number of runs, quality workouts, etc. Various hands went up at each query, until he got to the last one – mental training. Yep, he had almost all of us. In the proverbial nutshell, he got right down to the point that if your head isn’t ready to run that big race, your legs may not be able to do it alone. One of the great features of this talk and of all the speakers was that the comments applied regardless of the relative ability of the individual runner. Of course there are qualitative differences between elites and club runners, but that old head up there can stop all of us as fast or faster than tired legs. Preparing the mind shouldn’t be underestimated as an important racing strategy.

Finally, Ellie Greenwood, a PRR member who has gone from being ‘just one of the gang’ to elite ultra runner, shared with the audience the unfortunate but possibly inevitable matter of serious injury and what you do next when you really, really want to run, but can’t (shouldn’t). One can imagine that for someone like Ellie the frustration of going from a year in which she ran some 6000km to zero, or something relatively close, the strain would be almost unbearable. Even though Ellie runs in a whole different universe from most of us, this was again a topic that most could still relate to in a personal way. At some point, almost every runner, no matter her or his level of relative performance hits a point where something goes sideways. In many instances it is just minor and if respected and rested, is over soon, but often enough it is serious enough to threaten a whole year of running. I know I’ve been there a couple of times – once when the issue was not really a running injury, but the effect was the same (no running) and once when it was a true running injury, one that I did not accept, fix and move on, thereby ensuring that in the end I lost most of a year. Ellie talked us through what you do instead of running to keep both mind and body fit. Again, nobody in the house that night was drifting off in any way shape or form.

As always, the race sponsors including Mizuno, Forerunners, Ethical Bean Coffee, BC Athletics and PowerBar made the evening fun and rewarding in a tangible way for those winning the draw prizes on offer. One of the most popular of the prizes was the handful (big handful) of guaranteed entries for the First Half. Now that says something about this event! The entry was guaranteed – not FREE – just guaranteed, so you wouldn’t have to risk missing today’s registration scramble. It is actually a hard to pinpoint, yet easy to see, thing – the popularity of the First Half. Oh, you can list all the great things about the race: First longer race of the season, generous sponsors, fabulous and amazingly fast course (many people PR on this course, even if it is February), great attention to detail, by now maybe just the whole thing of ‘getting in’, the great post-race food, Variety, the fabulously deserving charity to which net proceeds have gone since 1996 and now mounting to a total of $550,000. All those things certainly count, but it would be wrong to suggest other races and organizing groups aren’t doing a great job. However, every year the feedback seems to be that the volunteers are the number one ‘praise-point’ (think I just made that up). And, as a former race director of the First Half I think I can say that by volunteers I would broadly include the entire membership of PRR as well as more than twice as many individuals from the community, some who have been with the race for years and years.

So, I’m almost done now and hope that I actually get this finished before registration is finished.

As mentioned, this is the 25th running of the First Half. It is not the 25th Annual, because another event became a bit of a conflict for dates and space in 2010 – yes, the Winter Olympics. So, for those who are trying to figure out how the whole thing kicked off in 1989 (with Peter Butler of Forerunners, winning the inaugural First Half Half Marathon), and yet this being the 25th, that is what happened. We are told, rather coyly I must say, that special things will happen, but we are just going to have to wait and see.  OK, I’m waiting!

Like most of the very small number of First Half former Race Directors, I will be there again on race day (more like race week, but that was what I was talking about before). Looking forward to seeing all those who are successful in registering today and hoping that some who can’t (because of one of those unfortunate issues Ellie Greenwood talked about) or just didn’t get registered, will become part of that fabulous volunteer crew that makes it all happen.

PS: Here’s a little secret for those who missed registering, Forerunners offers a running clinic with a (limited number of) race entry as part of the package. And, those clinics have prepared a lot of people over the years, and may just be part of some of those Personal Best performances too!

NEW BEGINNINGS

09.06.2013

Summer sun setting

Man, I hate to join the ‘Summer’s Over’ crowd, but when the kids head back to school (even when your youngest ‘kid’ is 35) the focus somehow shifts. I guess we will just have to say we are headed into the early Fall, with fabulous weather, even if we really do still have a couple of weeks of official Summer.

This lame old blogger is nothing if not a planner. I was showing a running friend my little file on my next race, the Kelowna Wine Country Half Marathon. I believe his comment was, “Holy cow! Are you ever competitive.”  What? Just because I have route maps and course profiles with altitudes and grades calculated and distances at whatever grade, up or down? Well, I suppose it is a form of being competitive, but mostly I see it as a survival tool. As a Seasoned Athlete, it is ever more important to not run out of ‘running’ before I run out of ‘route’. I am notorious for going out too fast. Always have been, but it costs more now. However, I am getting ahead of myself.

In the earlier part of the year I decided to try out the whole Marathon Maniac thing and between April 28 (Eugene Marathon) and July 6 (Freedom Marathon – Leg# 3 of the Firecracker Quadzilla) I ran three marathons and a 50K trail ultra. That was fun, and I learned that the technique of letting your last marathon be the long training run for the next one, actually works as long as you aren’t looking for BQ times. The better part of valour caused me to decide that running more marathons through the heat of Summer was not the best plan. Besides, there were some important other things to do, especially running the Hood to Coast Relay (Aug 23-24). It turns out that running a lot of slowish long races can put a bit of lead in your legs when it comes to picking up the pace for shorter events. The training plan turned to shorter faster workouts, some of them even on the track! Hood to Coast is a combination of distance and speed. Each of the three legs a team member runs is relatively short, and you run them quickly and in a period of maybe 18 hours. To add to the challenge, between runs you spend your time sitting in a crowded and ever more stinky van. Never had so much fun in all my life!  That is why this was my 8th Hood to Coast.

Summerfast 10K - photo by Keith Dunn

To get ready for H2C, as I like to call it, it seemed that a local Canada Day 5K was a good idea and also a flat, fast (the course, not me) 10K in late July. The race is called the Summerfast 10K.  Has to be fast, right? I did get a nice photo from near the 5K point in which I kind of look fast. I’m sticking with that as proof! I missed my annual participation of ancient Olympian style running (aka the Wreck Beach Bare Buns Run) due to impossible scheduling issues. Kind of sad about that since it is the first miss in a lot of years. Oh well, next year.

Hood to Coast arrived after much preparation and planning. Did I mention I am a planner?  Yes, I did. For H2C 2013 I was, and have been many times before, the team captain. Just to keep things interesting one of our team had to undergo emergency surgery just 5 days before we were to leave! Still can’t believe that she called from the hospital while awaiting the surgeon. That is dedication. I was able to find a replacement within 24 hours and in some kind of karmic thing, it was a woman who had been on my 2012 team but had not been able to run as a result of injury. This was her chance to make up for 2012. The relay itself was fabulous with really good running weather. We had a relatively late start, so hit the beach at Seaside as the sun was in the process of setting. Everyone was pretty euphoric about it, especially since everyone but me was new to running this event. I think everyone learns something about themselves as runners and as people. You have to dig deep to pull out three quality runs, sometimes fighting pain and always fatigue. I have yet to see a team where individuals have not found that inner strength and resolve. This is largely a fun event, but it is no less compelling and competitive for that fact. People just seem to want to give their best, whatever that might be, in support of the team.

So here I sit, writing this blog post and looking ahead to the Fall. Thus, the title “New Beginnings”.

Personally, I only have a few races ‘nailed down’. The first, of course, is the Kelowna Wine Country Half Marathon on September 7, just one day away, less than 12 hours actually. It is always fun and exciting to be part of something new and this is the inaugural running of the event. Kelowna is in the Okanagan area of British Columbia where our family lived for 10 years and it is where I began my running. It is where I met my ‘bobble-headed’ co-editor, Steve King, and where I recorded most of the PB’s I ever scored, several done in Kelowna.

In addition to the race there is the major bonus of visiting our oldest daughter and her family in Summerland, where we used to live. Can’t wait to hear the stories of our grandson, Charlie, who just completed his second Kids of Steel triathlon. Start ‘em young in the Okanagan, they does!

Next marathon will be the Surrey International World Music Marathon (Sept 29).  This is a real first for me, and my wife too. A very good and generous friend, with a fabulous imagination, gave us a rather unique gift for our 45th Wedding Anniversary: entries into the full (me) and half (wife will walk) marathons.  All I can say is thanks! I believe this person would not want me to name names, so I won’t, but will say just how touched we both are by this gift.

As far as the marathon goes, I think it is going to have to be pretty slow. Why? Well, because I am not trained for that distance. The Wine Country Half is going to be the longest distance I’ve done in some time. Of course, I consider races at pace to be worth a good deal more than a training run of the same distance. So, if I am racing 21.1K, it might be worth a 27-28K training run. That is September 7 and the Surrey marathon is September 29, leaving just 22 days between. Technically, a body should be on the verge of beginning a training taper, but I’m not sure how you taper down from a bunch of 10K or shorter races! My plan is that Surrey is going to have to be the ‘long run’ for what is to follow. I could get one more long easy run in, but some travel is going to make that a challenge. In fact, the Kelowna race is on the second day of a road-trip to Winnipeg, where our other daughter is now trying to entice me to run a 10K race in Winnipeg. Oh, why not! We lived in Manitoba for a time and I ran there, but never raced. Time to ‘fix’ that, I guess. You can only plan so much!

After the Surrey Marathon, there are a series of races about which decisions must be made. You see, I have a plan to become a Two Star Maniac.  There is more than one way to skin that cat, but the most likely for me is to run at least eight marathons in 365 days. I still have until April 27, 2014 to do four more in support of that quest. Thankfully, there is no finish time requirement by the Maniacs. Surrey will be No 5 of 8. That leaves three more to do before the end of April next year. If you are marathoning in the Maniac style, you need to bunch the races together so you only have to climb that training ladder once at the beginning. The Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon is a family favourite since about 2000, when our (now) Winnipeg daughter and I ran the full marathon. But, this time I will almost certainly be the only one running.

The same day, the Okanagan International Marathon happens in Kelowna, and that has other benefits already described above. Decisions must be made!

Foolishly or not, I am registered to run the full Reggae Marathon (already done the 10K and Half) in Negril, JA on December 7. Flights and hotel already booked. With one of the October races that would get me to seven of the eight marathons I need. The problem is that from mid-October to early December is just a bit too long to count on the rolling training/racing system without putting another marathon into the mix. Fortunately (or not) for me, the Boundary Bay Marathon is almost within walking distance of where I live. It is flat and scenic and kind of small and low key. That race falls on November 3rd, making it almost perfect as a set-up for the Reggae Marathon. I like to throw in a serious effort now and then, even if I am working on my Marathon Maniac program. Surrey certainly isn’t going to be it, just because of training. While Victoria has been one of my best race venues whether for half or full marathon, it is a challenging course and training level may still be an issue.

In fact, the most likely event for a reasonable time will be the Boundary Bay Marathon. With the upcoming Half, then two marathons under my belt as ‘training’, Boundary Bay’s flat scenic course may well offer the best opportunity for a time that is better than ‘just doing it’. As much as I love the Reggae Marathon, it is not for the perfect racing conditions and PB potentials!  Maybe tropical PB’s. Hadn’t thought of that.

As I said, there is always a plan. Should anything go sideways with what I’ve just laid out, there is the Yakima River Canyon Marathon in very early April. This event is organized by Bob and Lenore Dolphin and will feature several old friends. Bob is the ultimate Maniac with over 500 marathons/ultras to his name and is a contributor to Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes. Whether I need it or not re my effort to add another star to my Maniac status, I think there is a pretty good chance I’ll do this one anyway.

Well, there you have my picture of what the Fall has in the way of ‘New Beginnings’. Some really are new, including a brand new event,  and new participation by me in as many as five marathons I’ve never done (Surrey, Okanagan, Boundary Bay, Reggae and Yakima). I’ve been involved in other race distances at all of them except Yakima, but not the full marathon.

Again, this post is kind of about me, the subject I know the most about, but is also the base for sharing the idea that racing effectively and in a satisfying, injury-free way, does demand a plan. Many would plan training regimes as part of it, and if looking for top performance the training component is essential. In fact, my plan does imply training, but the events themselves become an integral part of that program. The events become the long run in the training plan(s) of the races.

As I have worked through the logistics of what is written here and examined both the feasibility and philosophy I think I am already beginning a plan relative to next year. If I can pull my Two Star Maniac plan off before Christmas or at the latest before the end of April next year, I am starting to see something new evolving. Marathons are fun, just because of the ambiance and ‘feel’ of them. They are also hard work, even when you use the Maniac system and don’t worry about time. If I pull all this off, Yakima could take me to 25 marathons/ultras, a nice round number.

My 2014 plan is starting to look like the ‘Year of the Half’, at least in my mind.  The half marathon is a wonderful event. It is not too hard to train for and puts you in good stead for shorter distances such as the 10K. If you are half marathon ready, training up to a full marathon is less demanding and doable in a fairly short time. The Vancouver area has some wonderful events to choose from. I still want to think about the possibility of doing a decent marathon time at some point. BQ? Who knows? Age graded ‘good’? Yes, for sure.

Seventy once seemed aged and far off. As I write, it is but 16 months (to the day) to that momentous birthday. Unless something awful happens, there WILL be racing after I turn 70 – at least one! I guess I should start looking for a race ON my birthday, not easy since it actually seems to fall on a Tuesday. See, that is why you must PLAN.  Maybe a nice trip somewhere would help solve the problem! Running and travel are two things I really enjoy.  I do still have some destination races I would like to do. Also, PB’s are fun and even though I am not actually fooling anyone, including myself, there are a couple of distances I have never done (30K, for instance) which would be automatic PB’s if only by virtue of being the first and only time I’ve done such races.

Hope I’ve inspired a few loyal readers to get started with their own planning for the coming racing season!  See you at the races!

 

Editors Note: Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes is now available from Trafford Publishing in e-book format.

RUNNING IN THE ZONE CO-EDITOR IS A BOBBLE-HEAD!

08.11.2013

Steve King X2 (from Penticton Herald)

No, no, that is not some sort of new taunt or insult! It is a high compliment.

My Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes co-editor, Steve King, has been immortalized in the form of a bobble-head doll. You don’t get your very own BHD (short for Bobble-Head Doll) without doing something remarkable. In fact, I’m pretty sure the next step is a bronze statue but with just one exception of which I know, at least around Vancouver (- the famous British Empire Games ‘moment’ from the Landy/Bannister miracle mile) those tend not to be for the living and we are definitely not wanting to move to that stage for a very, very long time.

Bob's Border Busters - Hood to Coast

Trying to pay proper tribute to Steve is not simple or easy. I have known him, run with him and written with him starting back around 1985-86. Back in those days Steve was more a runner, but I have a few old news clippings from the era when he used to write about the very active road running scene in the Okanagan, and while were still living there he began announcing the early Ironman Canada events. I can prove we were running together back then with the ‘ancient’ team photo of Bob’s Border Busters – the very first Hood to Coast team of which I was ever a part. That experience must have stuck because in a few days I will be leaving for my 8th Hood to Coast as the captain and a member of Canucks to the Coast. A close examination of the photograph of that fine first team indicates that Steve (back – 3rd from left) and I (back – 2nd from right) were a wee bit younger back in 1987.

The very development and writing of RITZ – the book, is a tribute to the depth of Steve’s involvement in our world of running. Steve remained in the Okanagan from those days in the 80′s, but I left in 1990 and will not forget the send-off by my running friends - held where? In Steve and Jean’s backyard, of course! I still have the original and much treasured Penticton Pounders singlet that was given to me as a gift that night. It was some years before Steve and I were physically in the same area again. By then he was the go-to guy when it came to announcing and commentating. Our first re-encounter was at the start of the Royal Victoria Marathon in 2000. From there we stayed in touch and eventually I approached him with the idea of a book to encourage and celebrate older runners. The concept had a few versions and tentative titles, including “Running in the Shade”.  Slowly it became Running in the Zone and the idea solidified, of inviting a bunch of avid runners, some very well known and some less so, to contribute to the package. Naturally, we invited more people than actually accepted, but as such things go the percentage success was nothing short of phenomenal. Why? Almost entirely because Steve knew most of these people, which allowed our approach to be personal. I won’t go into a long list of names of the 26 contributors or the titles of their pieces. You can quickly check that by just clicking “A Peek Inside the Covers” and look at the Table of Contents. You will see Olympians and world record holders as well as a number of builders of our sport and yes, passionate avid runners, like me. We organized the ‘zones‘, otherwise generally known as chapters after we received the contributions. We told our potential contributors the approximate size of the piece and the general thrust of the book, but largely left it to each of them to speak their minds and hearts. The result was some amazing writing, much of it from people who are otherwise not writers. That was my part in this undertaking. Having experience with editing in various forms, I helped our contributors to get their submissions into final form. It was always easy to tell when you had a good one, because regardless of the technical writing skill of any given author (and some of our contributors were professional writers in their own right) the raw beauty and strength always showed through. Steve and I worked with these wonderful gracious people to finalize and finally publish Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes.

Vancouver Marathon - 2007

Steve, while accomplished in so many areas - a kind of ‘man for all seasons’, is best known by most people in running and triathlon events as “The Voice”. It is interesting to know how many people have never really seen Steve and kind of don’t know who he is until you mention the announcer at the finish of Ironman or the Sun Run or Victoria or Vancouver marathons. The response is almost always something like “Oh him! He is amazing!” I remember one time when RITZ first came out and Steve and I were working our booth together: several people had come up and were showing interest/chatting, but only when Steve started talking to them did his distinctive voice register. They would suddenly realize who he was. You could literally see the ‘light’ come on.

I can’t tell you how many people head for finish lines in hopes that Steve will call them in and add a little colour. That, by the way, includes ME.  I’m sorry. Full confession – I am shallow and weak – but I still love to hear it when Steve manages to give me a shout-out. Now with me, Steve doesn’t get any special credit for knowing a lot of stuff. I mean, we’ve known each other something approaching thirty years. What does amaze and thrill most people is that with whatever bits of info he may have gathered from a race entry or just having recognized a name from a previous race, Steve can tell a story about what any given runner has been doing. In a very recent post I talked about my grandson Charlie who just did his first Kids of Steel triathlon in Penticton, complete with Steve King race announcing. What a way to start your racing career! And apparently, Steve gave him the full treatment.  What Steve has is a gift not possessed by many, and Steve uses it well. We are all glad.

So, without going on and on about what so many already know about Steve and his announcing, what about this BHD? I was as surprised and pleased as anybody else when the news came out regarding this immortalization and tribute. Apparently, I was not a lot more surprised than Steve himself when the idea was floated as a means to create a vehicle for promoting our sport and raising a bit of money for charity.  There was clearly some behind the scenes skulduggery of the highest order before Bobble-Head Steve was introduced to the world. The likeness is quite remarkable! I am seeking out my very own Steve King BHD because anytime Steve and I are in the same place at the same time and maybe one of the purposes is selling Running in the Zone, Steve is generally busy preparing to do what he does best. So with the Bobble-Head Doll, my co-editor can now always be there with me at any such public appearance! Maybe I need to get a recording that I can play for those that only recognize “The Voice”.

In all seriousness, this piece is my own little tribute to the contribution Steve makes to people and sport. Steve King’s web site can be found in the link here, and there you can take your own sweet time to find out more about his many skills and accomplishments. That list is extensive starting with his own career as race walker and later a runner. His ‘regular’ job is in addictions counseling and I am sure the combination of his caring nature and willingness to call a spade a spade makes him very successful in that field. There are many things that give enjoyment to we weekend warriors who run for the sheer fun and joy of it. A big one is the encouragement that comes from someone who can make you feel like you just won something big, even when you are slogging in at 3,658 out of 4,812 at some big race or another. (In case you aren’t following, that would be me.)

Jean spotting for Steve - Scotiabank Half 2011

There is one more thing that must be said. For many, many years Steve has relied on the support and actual assistance of his wonderful wife, Jean. I’m pretty sure that he, before anyone else, would say this. Because, as with so many things, because the final product is what the great bulk of us see, we never know what is behind it all. As I noted, I don’t get much time at races to catch up with Steve because he is preparing (often for many hours) for his ‘effortless’ commentary. Jean is very much a part of that, as well as the race-day action that includes anything from spotting (those are binoculars in her hands in the picture to the left) to keeping him supplied with whatever he needs whether that be coffee or critical bits of paper tucked here and there. As with so many other things, Steve has put us all to shame and although my wife Judi and I are about to celebrate our 45th Wedding Anniversary in just a few days, I have to warn her that I have not made her a musical CD to commemorate all those years together.  Yep, Steve did that. It is called “Songs for Jean”. Many are appropriate covers, such as (what other than?) “Jean”, but at least one is an original song written just for her. Frankly, me not doing such a thing is more a kindness where it comes to my singing and musical talent, but as I already mentioned, Steve is one of those rare ‘man for all seasons’ kind of people.

So, are there any questions now as to why Steve has his own Bobble-Head?  Thought not!

 

NOTE: Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes is now available in e-book format from Trafford Publishing

THREE ZONE POST

07.23.2013

Charlie is there for his Dad!

One of the great advantages of having your own blog site is getting to write about whatever you like!  So, I’m going to do that right NOW.

This blog is mostly about and for ‘Seasoned Athletes’. I am by definition, a Seasoned Athlete. Steve King, co-editor of Running in the Zone (the book) is also a Seasoned Athlete. By my definition at least, my daughter is also a Seasoned Athlete – OK,  OK, almost – ALMOST a Seasoned Athlete. The person who is most responsible for this post is anything but a Seasoned Athlete. In fact, he is a brand new recruit. He is Charlie, my grandson. Charlie is six, but he will be seven next week, so I guess this is a kind of birthday gift that he can keep until he really is a Seasoned Athlete! If someone actually prints this off and puts it away, it will be interesting for Charlie to get it out sometime when he does qualify as ‘Seasoned’ and see how it stacks up with whatever may have happened in the time between.

OK, so what is this really all about?

Kids of Steel Finish - July 20, 2013

First, the obvious Three Zones of the title refers to the three generations of Charlie, his parents and his granddad. This was a big weekend. Charlie did his very first triathlon – the Kids of Steel event which is part of the Peach

Grandad - Summerfast 10K - July 20, 2013 - Photo by Keith Dunn

Classic Triathlon (Penticton).  And, his Dad, Greg Krysa, did the sprint distance triathlon (far from his first). His Mom, Danielle, made the fabulous (she is an artist and graphic designer) signs for these races, but she is both a runner (a goodly number done with me and her sister, and a triathlete). Oh yes, and she designed the appearance of the Running in the Zone book cover AND this blog site. Finally, there is me and this weekend I ran a 10K in Vancouver (Summerfast 10K put on by VFAC).

Now, before I get to the comments of a proud grampa, I must tie in one other person, Steve King. Only half jokingly, because anything to do with triathlon and Penticton will almost surely involve Steve, I asked if Steve had announced the Kids of Steel event.  Sure enough, he had! So, not only has Charlie followed in his parents footsteps, in his very first event, he got to enjoy the Steve King celebrity treatment!  Talk about full circle for all of us.

Steve King - Co-Editor Running in the Zone

I have no intention of talking about Charlie’s performance. That surely is not what it is about at this stage (no, that doesn’t mean he was last, nor was he first). Did he have fun? Well, that is the only ‘performance’ of any importance at this stage, and the photographs I have seen pretty much say he did. Will this be his last triathlon? I’m kind of thinking not. With Mom and Dad both involved in running and particularly triathlon and him having been out to cheer on both of them, his Auntie Janna and me, for longer than he could possibly remember, I would think this stuff will be totally in his blood. I look ahead to the day when I can personally take the experience to the stage where I can run with Charlie in an event like maybe a 3K or 5K – maybe in another 2-3 years. I have run with all three of our kids at one point or another from when they were teens through to our “Half Challenge” (when I ran a half marathon with each when she or he was half my age), so it only seems logical to take that to the next level if at all possible. All I ask is that when we do get to run together, Charlie take a little pity on the old guy.

And now Charlie is the Star!

I am just so proud and thrilled to see him do this and enjoy being part of what we all enjoy. The one thing I want to say right now to Charlie is:  Just keep having fun.

If someday you turn out to be really, really good at triathlon or swimming or biking or running, that will be great and we will all be there cheering, including your Nanna who is THE cow-bell queen and head family cheer person for all of us. If it turns out that you are never better than any of the rest of us, always remember it is for the fun and satisfaction you get and it is always for yourself that you are doing this, or any other sport you may choose.

We are all so proud to see you take on the challenge and have so much fun with it.  Congratulations Charlie!  Well done!

THE “KINDNESS OF STRANGERS” and OTHER STUFF FROM THE WINTHROP MARATHON

06.11.2013

Winthrop Marathon and Half Marathon

I was always going to post something about my latest road-trip race. You know I was. But, what I didn’t know until it was all done, was what the main topic would be. So, let’s get some of the obvious stuff out of the way and then I’ll get to the main point, a point that is not exclusive to the Winthrop Road Marathon, but ever so important.

North Cascades

This was my second time to the Winthrop Road Marathon. You know there is something different when the name of the event insists on including the word ROAD. There is a reason for that. The Winthrop ROAD Marathon is organized by Rainshadow Running and is the only event in their considerable roster that isn’t a trail epic. Winthrop is a ‘small’ event in regard to total numbers of competitors in the combined marathon and half marathon events. This year the total finisher counts were 103 and 84 respectively. The distances are pretty standard so small only refers to numbers. It certainly doesn’t apply to the ‘heart’ of the race(s). The effort and care put into it by James Varner and his crew of volunteers is top shelf and as good as any. When you get to the finish, the post-race celebration and street party is up there with the best! There is plenty of fruit, baked goods, refreshing juices, lemonade and cold water. When you are ready there is a hearty lunch from Carlos’ 1800 Mexican Restaurant. Oh yes, and one other thing. Now what was that?

Old Schoolhouse Brewery

Right, beer on tap from the Old Schoolhouse Brewery (located, literally, mere steps from the finish line). They have live music too!  Finally, once you have eaten all you want and quaffed all the cooling beverages you need, just a short walk down the wooden sidewalk you can collect your ice cream from Sheri’s. All of this done in the warm afternoon sunshine of the Methow Valley in North-Central Washington State in the, wait for it ——  rainshadow of the North Cascades.

Rushing mountain stream marks the Start

The race starts well up the Chewuch River, interestingly enough pretty much 26 miles.  It used to start 3 miles farther up that road, but that involved doing those three miles on gravel. In order to keep the whole thing on pavement, the start was moved down a bit and a wee (didn’t seem so ‘wee’ at the end of the marathon) out and back was added in town to make up the difference. Having never done the original route, I can’t really comment on the difference, but I sure like the first half of the marathon course which is all in the forest, running beside the Chewuch River, which is often in plain view. I think I’d like a version of the route that would take me straight to the finish once we hit town, but hey, that’s just me. I have no experience on the former gravel section. I do know that both times I’ve done Winthrop the weather was warm, especially as you break out into the open just around the half way point. At the time it now takes me to run a marathon even on a good day, it is getting pretty ‘toasty’ by the time you are at the half mark. Three more miles in the shady forest seems like a good thing to me!

Regardless of my route commentary, this is a great ‘little’ event and one to give a try sometime, especially if you want something a bit different from the big city mega-event marathon or half marathon. Nothing wrong with those big races, but you do owe it to yourself to try a race like the Winthrop Road Marathon.

Now to “The Kindness of Strangers” part of the title. What happened was not really major and was surely not exclusive to this race or even the people involved, but it did make an impression on me and provided the major talking point for this race.

Very few runners, once they have cooled down, will not recognize the effort of the volunteers at any event.  Without ‘em we would be in trouble trying to do what we do. We all recognize the nature of the running community and can tell stories of selfless kindness, including people halting their own race to help someone in distress. Everyone tends to be supportive of everyone else. For the most part, that is just how it is and one of the reasons people enjoy running as they do.

My story is really nothing major but was still pretty amazing to me. Here it is.  In 2012 I totally blew my hydration and electrolyte balancing. Did I mention it can be warm in Winthrop in June? Yes, I thought so.  Somewhere around 15 miles I started cramping up and started walking. It was largely my own fault, so in 2013 I vowed that was not going to happen again, and it mostly didn’t. Although I was tiring and slowing quite appreciably as the end drew near, I feel it was more attributable to the fact that this was my third marathon or greater racing event in a period of six weeks. Cramping or potential cramping (because I was only just feeling the first twinges) only happened in the last mile or two. I managed that and even shuffled across the finish line at what might have looked like a running pace. Haven’t seen the finish-line pictures yet!

I was pretty tired and my quads were pretty stiff, but I had improved on my time from 2012 and was pretty sure even at that point that I had moved up the finish order. I was feeling good because this was in context of all the recent running and the fact that if anything, the day was a bit warmer than 2012. I walked around a little within the restricted finish area and found out where the drop bags were. I wanted to get out of my sweaty running singlet and get into my new Marathon Maniac shirt so the many Maniacs in attendance could see I was one of them. As I stepped up maybe four inches onto the board-walk and put pressure on my right foot, my right calf just went into spasm right then and there. Being almost in front of the band, I grabbed one of the speaker stands just to take pressure off my leg. And thus began my own experience of “the kindness of strangers”. Two women who were runners (half marathon I think), were right there to steady me (and maybe try to rescue the speaker too, although it was really never in danger – really, it wasn’t). I hope I didn’t look as bad as they must have thought. Except that it hurt a lot, as anyone who has experienced such a post-run cramping episode would know, I was quite OK. Then a third woman, associated with the Carlos’ food service, got into it.  They convinced me to sit down in a chair that one of them quickly found for me and the restaurant lady was giving me a foot to brace against while I tried to stretch out my calf. One of the others offered to get me a big cold glass of lemonade, and then did. When she got back she asked if she could get me some fruit. Once more, she returned with a plate of grapes, cherries, watermelon and pineapple.  By then I had pretty much downed the lemonade, so she asked if I wanted more. I did. Off she went again.  Meanwhile the third of these angels of mercy offered me a high-tech cold towel thingy for my neck. Not sure I really needed that (I mean it was my calf that was in distress) but by this time I think I was kind of getting into all this tender attention.  I have to say, whether I really needed it or not, that cool towel did feel pretty good!

To "Strangers" and all the Volunteers!

In truth, all of this didn’t actually take all that long and I was soon able to go get my bag and get into a less race ‘damaged’ shirt. All three kept track of me for the next while. I thanked each of them each time they did something specific but my big regret was not being able to make a more expansive thank you to each of them after everything was done. It really was special how much attention they showered on this old guy.  Who knows, maybe I did look a bit scary after my effort in the noon-day sun, but other than being painfully cramped up for a bit, I was feeling pretty darn good. I do hope that all three see this somehow and realize I’m talking about them.  As I think about, maybe not being able to make some kind of pretty thank you speech to each of them, was a kind of blessing in disguise.  Because I have had to do it this way, maybe all those runners and volunteers who have done anything remotely similar at some place and time, will recognize themselves in more general terms and KNOW I am talking to them too.

As I recall, none of these women asked my name and I did not ask theirs. Before I realized it, they were all gone, as far as I could see. The whole encounter was entirely anonymous and maybe that was to the good. It was done person to person without ever becoming ‘personal’. It truly was a matter of “The Kindness of Strangers“.

THINGS YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT A MARATHON

12.21.2012

Running in the Zone is about to try something new. In collaboration with Everyday Health, and just in time for the Christmas festivities we are bringing you some fun facts about marathons. Some might say there is nothing ‘fun’ about a marathon, but I doubt it would be anyone who reads this blog! I will certainly agree that at certain points along the way, ‘fun’ might not be precisely what we are thinking. That would probably be around 20 miles for most people. But, we all know how good it feels when we stop (at the finish, of course)- sort of reminds me of something else (also generally involving a wall).

We agreed that the best arrangement was to link to the article, but as a teaser, here is my favorite Fun Fact:

#14.  At 100 years old, Fauja Singh became the oldest person — and the first centenarian — to finish a marathon when he crossed the finish line at the 2011 Toronto Marathon. His final time: eight hours, 11 minutes, and 5.9 seconds.

Now, anyone who follows this blog is going to know why this is my favorite! I had the pleasure of running with Fauja Singh in September, right here in Surrey, BC! We didn’t do a marathon. Just 5K that time, but what great fun it was to run with this amazing man as part of his entourage of family and friends. Seeing this paricular fact, and its extension, I now better understand why those around him would break out in laughter from time to time! Even though I couldn’t understand what he was saying, I could tell the man was very witty (and maybe just a little profound) - see what he had to say as he finished his marathon at age 100!

“Just before we came around the [final] corner, he said, ‘Achieving this will be like getting married again,’” his trainer Harmander Singh said, according to Fox Sports.

Hmmmm. That has a bit of a familiar ring to it. In fact, it was my doctor (a running friend) who got me into my first marathon some 25 years ago. How? He had just done his first not long before and declared, “It was the most exciting thing I’ve ever done, next to my honeymoon!” With an endorsement like that, who could resist? It seems that Mr. Singh had similar thoughts as he finished the Toronto Marathon in 2011.

For the other 25 Fun Facts - follow this link to 26.2 Fun Facts About Marathons.

I think my second favorite is the one about Kathrine Switzer and the 1967 Boston Marathon. Kathrine is a good friend to this Blog and Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes. And, she continues to do fantastic work to promote running and women’s running in particular.

So there you have a little gift from Running in the Zone as a celebration of the festive Christmas and New Year Season. Maybe it will be the motivation to sign up for your next, maybe your FIRST marathon.

See you on the roads and trails in 2013!

RUNNING IN THE ZONE – THE BOOK – BIG NEWS

12.12.2012

I guess every good book has to go this way – Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes is an “E-Book”.

Why do you care? Well, for one thing, notwithstanding that having a nice paper copy in your hand is comforting to ‘seasoned’ readers, and also notwithstanding that the hard-copy book is a bargain, the price for the “E” version is about one sixth as much.  That is right, you can have an electronic copy for your e-reader, for the paltry sum of $3.99 and I am pretty sure that is US$3.99, so with the Canuck Buck just passing $1.01 it may be even less! I just found out about this literally yesterday. As I understand it, Trafford has effectively converted all its books to an e-book version so now readers have the choice.

The downside of the ‘Real McCoy’ is shipping cost.  You won’t have to worry about that with the e-book version. If you still want paper in your hand, and you actually know me personally, I have a small inventory and can eliminate the need for shipping, or at least use Canada Post to get it to you as inexpensively as possible.  Christmas is just around the corner and Running in the Zone could be a great stocking stuffer.

The book is the work of 26 avid runners, many of international reputation, both in running and writing. If you go to the Trafford site you can get a sneak peak at a limited part of the book, also by checking out some of the background here at the blog. If you aren’t interested in a purchase, please do know you are welcome back here at the old blog, anytime!