Thursday, May 25, 2017

Bluenose Half Marathon 2017

So last year I focused on trying to improve my speed after having failed to better my Half Marathon time at the Bluenose. I tried and failed, running 1 minute slower than the previous year. So I entered the Bluenose 10km race and hoped that a focus on that distance for 2016 would propel my speed forward. What it did was get me hurt. I pushed too hard, harder than what my body was capable of sustaining, totally my fault and I should have known better. But then, that's why having a coach or mentor or running friend with a cool head can be such as asset. They tell us when too much is too much. I bounced back form injury last year to have some great results, but not the one I really wanted, a sub 37 min 10km. I did win my age group at Bluenose and finish in the top 10, and with no running for almost 3 weeks manage a 37:40ish 10km. So I wasn't totally unhappy.

Lessons learned and this year I opted to go back to the Half. That 1:23:53 of years ago was still holding on, and my age wasn't going down. So I knew that I had to find that speed sooner rather than try for it later. I spent this winter with a run heavy focus. Yes, cycling was still a key part of my training but I ramped up my weekly mileage to 50+ km each week, generally in the 60+ km category. For me that is big mileage, as all of my running is heavily focused. I need lots of rest between sessions.

Another key focus on my training was strength sessions. I have done these before and preach them to whoever listens. But now I was even more focused on getting them done. I also was proactive in my recovery, seeing my Chiropractor Alan from Seaside Chiropractic monthly. He was great at cleaning up overused muscles and adhesions as well as pointing out when new issues seemed to be on the rise.

My use of heart rate training has continued, though now my ability to "feel" the right zones has increased as I have so much more experience. And while I have tried to use the Dr Daniels VDOT system in the past, this year I focused heavily on it (even becoming a certified VDOT coach). Oh and hills, so many hills.

So that preamble leads to the race itself. Sorry about that, but this is a text heavy blog post.

So I was ready, I was well trained, I was rested, I was strong. I knew I could beat that PB this year, I knew I had it in me. My choice of race attire was even selected with maximum speed in mind. Heck, I even took off the heart rate monitor for race day to save previous ounces.  Then came the Saturday before the race.

I awoke, ready for what was going to be an easy day. Walk the dog, watch a show, lay out my clothes, and do nothing else. Instead I found I had picked up a stomach bug. It seemed pretty mild, so I assumed some rest and watching my diet for the day would be enough. But as the day went on, it got worse. I was not feeling up to par for sure. I won't get into all the aspects of it, but basically I wasn't able to eat or drink very much without being totally uncomfortable. So I nibbled a little and sipped some water, but that was it. By the time I went to bed, I was seriously considering pulling out of the race.

When I awoke I didn't feel much better. I had a little bit of oatmeal and a few sips of water, I doubt that stayed in the system very long. I took some medication and drove to race start (my wife was racing as well). I waited in my race attire, near race start for an hour, finally wandering over with a few minutes to spare before race start. Oh well, I thought, either I make it or I don't.

Then we were off.

Within the first few kilometers I picked and held a decent pace. My cardio was feeling fine. My muscles were already tight.  I ran through the first water stop. By 5 km I felt like I needed to stop for fresh legs already 

Though apparently I looked like this, which seemed okay.

So by this point the race seemed to have settled a bit. The lead runner, Johana, from Kenya was well off the front, and ahead of me was a decent sized pack of runners. I was alone in 8th, but still hoping to grab my main goal of a sub 1:23 time, so placing didn't matter much.

The first half of the Bluenose half Marathon is downhill. Normally I suggest watching yourself and not burning the the first half of any race, but in this case you really need to take advantage of the free speed. To this end, I had not only focused much of my training on climbing hills, but also running down them. I feel like I became much better at it and had so much more control, limiting the use of my quads. By the time I crossed the 10km mark I was running at a 3:44 min/km avg pace and had a time of 37:23. That was over a minute faster than my previous best half marathon time by this point. And my breathing was fine as well, though my legs and belly still felt less than happy and I had passed through all water stops without taking anything on. I had also fallen to 9th place.

After 10 km, it is time to climb. We started up Inglis, then hit Young Ave, which is always great as it is the party street. Loads of support and cheering. Then into Point Pleasant Park. I new I would lose time here as it is a lot of climbing and crusher dust trails are usually a little slower. But I had planned for this. I watched my pace as best as I could, picking it up when I could and then easing into the hills. Another runner passed me and I used this as a chance to draft for a bit, tucking in and pacing off of him. As we hit the exit of the Park, he took off, but I feel like that really helped a lot.

Now for the worst part of the race, in my mind. a couple of kilometers of twitsy turning, bit with steep hills. It is really hard to get a good feel in this section, but I survived, and hit Young Ave again with a good avg pace of 3:50 min/km.  As I crossed the 18 km sign I looked down and did the math. I needed to average only 4 min/km to achieve my goal over the next 3 kilometers. That was good. I could do that.

Of course I looked like this. Not the greatest. Clutched tightly in that fist was a gel that I just refused to use.

As we hit the final kilometer and a half, I caught one runner, the guy who had passed me way back before the 10km mark, he was slowing and I was finding that last little bit of whatever was left. Then I caught and passed another runner, who had been with the fast pack from the start. But again, this wasn't about placing, so I didn't care about race tactics and having them jump on for a tow. I just picked up and ran.

As I hit the downhill portion before the finish I picked up the effort, then the 400 meter uphill climb to the finish reminded me of all those hills sessions I did and hills I threw in at the end of a long run. I pushed through with avg pace for that final kilometer of 3:35. I crossed the line in 1:21:40 officially, best my previous record on this tough course by 2 min and 13 sec. As I slowed I knew I had nothing left. I staggered a bit, a volunteer helped me get some water and over to the curb, where I sat for a bit then found enough to get up and indoors.

The overall pace average was 3:52 min/km, my finishing place was 8th overall and my AG placing was 2nd.

The weather on the day was sunny, cloudless and windy. Big gusts that were face on for the final 5 km. But the temp was perfect. I got hot, but that was fine. I found every reserve of energy ,my body had built up in training and used it (so yeah, you can race a half marathon well without food or water). I practiced all of this in training anyway. My plan worked, and even sick I pulled out something special for me.  Now I also know there is more in there. A good rest and I will begin a new plan, with an attempt at a Fall half. 

Thanks to all my support, the BLT Runners, Aerobics First, Seaside Chiropractic, Kinesic Sports Lab, and Elizabeth. Also thanks Craig at the start line for saying, "oh your tough, you can do it." 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

MEC Race #2 - Citadel Highlander April 30, 2017

So I'm a little late getting to this blog post, but I was a little busy, so you'll have to excuse me.

This has been a Spring classic race in Halifax for at least 6 years (maybe 7?) and I have been at all of them with a decent bit of success.

Now while it is a fixture race, due to circumstances with using a Historic Fort for a run means that the route has frequently been adapted over the years. Some years a little long, some short. I won last year with a good run that ultimately kicked off a spat with my Achilles. So this year I entered much stronger.

I entered the 5km race and right away knew it would be tough with a couple of strong competitors lined up with me. The sun was strong and warm, but the wind was fierce making things overall quite cool. Still, I opted for shorts.

We all lined up (including the 10km race) and were soon off.

I tucked in behind Drew, as he was doing the 10km race, and while  he is usually a little faster then me, I knew he would be pushing more of a 10km pace, which I hoped would be a good start for the 5km until I saw what others were doing. This proved to be fun as he lead us to a first kilometer in 3:36. Oops. That included a pretty decent hill climb. I was able to hang on though.

I got to around the half way point in second place but then let another 10km racer through and finally had to succumb to the power of Chad as he pushed into 1st in the 5 km race. At this point it was stay with Chad and see what happens. I stayed right on him until we reentered the fort, which required going through tunnels and stairs, eventually jumping a pile of sand bags and running through a wet grass moat. By the end of this Chad had formed a slight gap.

We exited the fort for one final lap around the outside before a kick to the finish. This was about 500m of steep down then steep up. Chad kicked early and I knew that I was just holding on at this point.  He finished ahead and took the win, I followed pretty closely and finished second in a  time of 18:55 and a distance of 5km. Las year's time was much faster but I think it was a couple of hundred meter short. 

I was very happy with my performance. I pushed at the right times, likely went out a bit hard but had to follow the way the race unfolded and ultimately felt god after a quick recovery. A few sore muscles over the following days have been very minor, which I tink shows that my hill sessions hve been doing their job of building my strength.

Here is my heart rate graph. A sharp spike to start, then a gradual climb. I like that it shows I pushed just as hard on the downhills, which are long enough here to recover if you want. And a little kick at the end to beat the clock.

Speed sessions and hill sessions this year have done well to keep me strong, chiro and physio session have kept me healthy. All together this has been a successful training year so far.

Next up is the Bluenose half. So a couple of weeks of specific race training and we will see where we are at.

Monday, April 24, 2017

That Time Ian Became Coach Ian

So a couple of weekends ago I took a course offered by the great Dr Jack Daniels, author of The Running Formula. Dr Daniels has been coaching for quite some time and before that was an accomplished athlete. His main focus has been on using the idea of VO2Max but making it accessible via a system he termed VDotO2. In this system you base you quality training sessions off of a VO2Max that has been determined via race results and not a lab test.

Now wait Ian, you are a huge believer in Heart Rate Training right?  And isn't Vdot based on an accumulation of data from many runners, then aggregated to show a pattern? Isn't heart rate about individuality?  Whoa! Let me answer these.

Yes, I am a firm believer in heart rate training. And I think all adult runners should get tested  to establish their base training zones. And heck, I still wear that monitor on each and every run.  I think that adult athletes have shown an inability to run easy when they first start out heck I as right there). We run like we think we are kids but we need to learn our limits. Heart rate is the perfect way to accomplish this. Zone 1 recovery and Zone 2 easy running is essential to becoming  solid and fast runner by building a base while limiting our chances of injury.

So how does VDot fit into this then? Well after years of training by heart rate while loosely following the Daniels approach, I have been very happy to see that his system and heart rate training are very good mirrors to each other. Both essentially push the athlete while simultaneously putting limits in place that should help us to limit injury. And limiting injury allows us to run more and running more allows us to run faster. 

A limit to heart rate training comes about in short efforts, like intervals and repetitions. The heart usually can't respond fast enough for the monitor to show you if you are giving too much or not enough. Instead having a pace or time set by years of observations allows you to dial right in on what you are supposed to achieve at a given workout. 

Heart rate in these cases still isn't useless.You gather the data and look at it afterword. Were you spiking appropriately in the intense portions and recovering as you should in the easy parts. Did you warm up enough and cool down sufficiently?

Heart rate is also great at putting limits during extreme temperature situations, or showing you if you aren't recovered enough from a previous workout, meaning you should (again) limit your next intense sessions.

I love working with adult athletes and helping them get past tough times, and showing them that smarter training doesn't mean you have to kill it every time you head out the door. Add in my growing knowledge of physio / strength training and my willingness to test everything I learn on myself first and I see a lot of fun times ahead.

Thanks to Dr Daniels and the RunSmart program for making this course available online, and let me tell you, that test isn't easy, but the course as well worth it in my opinion.

Friday, April 14, 2017

New Shoe Review - Saucony Zealot ISO

Not my actual shoe

So I found myself this spring with a pile of mostly worn out running shoes. Some I had rather liked, some not so much. But I also found myself starting to really ramp up my weekly mileage as my half marathon training has taken off. With a few aches and pains I knew I needed new shoes.

Into Aerobics First I went. I am rarely tied to any specific shoe, instead wanting what fits me best and fits the style of running I am doing. I had recently done a lot of running in a Skechers  shoe which I really liked, but it wore out quite fast for my liking. It would have been a great race day shoe, but I have that in my NB 1400's. Instead I wanted something that was going to give me a bit of support for longer training runs, and overall cushioning (without being squishy) for running frequently through the week (I usually run 5 days a week, sometimes 6).  

A chat with Luke at A1 and we tried a few options based on the criteria I talked to him about. In the end I bought this pair of Saucony Zealot ISO shoes. This is a shoe I had generally not even bothered to try as it didn't seem to fit what I liked about running shoes. First and foremost it looks clunky and huge. Also I had mixed luck with the Saucony brand in the past (I loved their Mirage but they stopped making it, I didn't find good luck with the Kinvara). 

But I decided to give this shoe a real try. And now three weeks later, I love it. Not as much for fast speed work, as I find it isn't as responsive as a racing flat for intervals, though it isn't bad for tempo work.

So this is a neutral shoe in the maximal world. That is it has no internal stability properties, has a low drop (4mm) and loads of cushioning (24mm on avg).  While it has no posting for arch support, what it does offer is a build up foam piece in the arch . This doesn't seem to affect your foot's natural movement from within the shoe, but when you start to get tired on longer runs, it helps to prevent tired muscles from allowing your foot to roll in upon impact. 

The cushioning aspect is definitely not a soft and plush feel. This shoe is still relatively firm (which I like) and this gives a more responsive road feel, IMO.  

Finally, the wear on the sole of this shoe seems, so far, to be quite good. With over 100km on it, I see little to no wear yet. A durable and comfortable trainer? I am happy. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Moose Run 2017

Another year another Moose Run, the 25th edition at that! I wish I could say I have been to every one, but alas I have been to exactly 2 now, including this year. The 25km distance was never one I cared to do, even when racing half marathons. Last year I decided to tackle it to help pace my buddy Craig. This year, as we are both racing the Bluenose Half,  it seemed like a good idea to come back and give it another go. Only this year faster! But still not at racing speed, more of a hard paced long run.

A few members of the BLT Runners showed up to run it as well.

It was a cool morning, so I wasn't sure what to wear. As I knew I wasn't going to be pushing my own pace too hard, I wondered if I might be chilled. In the end, I was convinced to drop the jacket. And really I was fine with the temperature, but I am glad I had gloves and a buff.

Last year Craig and I ran a 4:45 pace, but with about 3 km to go, you hit 2 nasty hills and those knocked Craig down a bit, we finished eventually with a 4:50 pace. Still, it was a great effort and with him just getting into heart rate training, we paced things well.

This year I wanted to push the pace a bit, up into the 4:40 min/km mark. This was likely going to push Craig a bit into Zone 3, but I wanted to see how much his training had toughened him up for race day. We had to beat that 2 hour mark!

With a record crowd, and a lot of smiles, we were off.  We passed a few people, we were passed by a few, but settled in to what was probably the top 1/3rd of the runners (243 in total). This included some relay teams as well.

The weather remained great, at the turn around there was a bit of a headwind for 4 km or so, but nothing crazy. We saw many friends, we chatted a lot and Craig was doing great. We even stopped and drank water at the stops, rather than spill it all over ourselves.

By the time we hit those final killer hills of the causeway we were already above pace at 4:38, and looking good. We grabbed a final water and headed for the home stretch. Craig was talking and breathing fine, and I finally convinced him to try and catch a few people up ahead. We did, and then as were began the turn to the finish with under 2 km, I convinced him to tag along as best as he could. I kept ramping the pace up slightly as it was mostly downhill.

With the finish line in sight, Craig was pushing it, and I was forcing him along, just another 100m Go Go! We hit a pace best, crossed the line and managed to get home in an awesome 4:36 pace time blowing away our old record, and doing so with relative ease (except those last 2 km). But those last 2 km last time is where things fell apart, so what a difference a year makes. 1:54 was our time.

All of the BLT Runners had a great day, followed by some spicy soup, hot dogs, cake and coffee.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Final Speed Skating Race of the Year, 2017

So the final speed skating race just happened this past Sunday. Two weeks ago we had the chance of losing the ice completely due to heat and rain, but this weekend we had record low temperatures and high wind. Brrr. I couldn't pass up the opportunity.

I signed up for the 1000m Olympic Style and the 1500m mass start. I had hoped to see if I could better my 1000m time from a few weeks back.

So race morning and the car said -18C on the way to the ice. With the wind it felt closer to -26C. And what a head wind it was.  Warm up was more a case of trying not to freeze, and I had to wear more clothing than I had previously raced in as well.

My heat came up. I started on the inside this time, which meant an outer corner finish. The horrible wind made getting to the first corner a little tricky, but it made skating through the second one fierce. The speed the tail wind brought was crazy, and I am not great at corners when going too fast. So my overall speed ended up suffering. I won my heat but with a paltry 2:20, when a few weeks back in better conditions I skated a 2:04.  Oh well. I placed 5th out of 16.

The 1500m mass start came up and I took my spot on the line. The speedy guys were in my race, so I had no illusions of winning or anything. From the start they headed out hard. I found a pace I thought I could hold, but again that wind was crazy, it had even picked up some.  I managed a time of 3:43 for 5th place out of 8. I don;'t think I have a 1500m best time that I can recall, but I can only suspect that was slow.

So a winter of ups and downs. I think overall my skating got better, but I wish I had more time to commit to the sport. I know my weaknesses better anyway.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

So far behind on this one why even bother - Speed Skating racing!

Dang, I am so far behind on this post that it is 2 posts in one and they are still both late. Initially I was waiting to see if any pictures showed up, but they didn't come, and then I got lazy and then.....

So a few weeks back I entered the 25 km skate marathon. This was a part of the winter Polar Vortex Challenge in Halifax, which also included the Tri-the -Oval winter triathlon I took part in.  I missed the first race of the series but still earned the coveted extra hat!

25km on skates sounds like fun (ha ha) but dang it was tough. 65 laps of the oval and I knew I was going to be hurting by the end. So I made darn sure that i paced myself to finish.

Knowing my current strengths, I decided to go out at a low 20 km/hr-ish pace. By 10  minutes in I was averaging 21.8km/hr, so that felt fine. Soon I was lapped by the leaders who were flying, but I really focused on keeping an even pace.  Halfway through and I was averaging 21.2km/hr.

I would like to turn this into a great story and all, but really, it was a bunch of laps of the oval where I spent a lot of time skating alone.  I did fall down at one point. Apparently the only person to do so. I just got tired and lost my footing, so that was interesting.

Anyway, short story long, I made it the final two laps, picked up the pace and finished with 2 laps in the 25 km/hr range, then just about collapsed. 1 hour and 14 minutes, with the leader finishing almost 20 minutes before I did. But I now have a bench mark for the future.

The next week brought another race. This time an Olympic style 1000m race. This one is tricky for skaters as it requires a series of lane changes throughout the race. In fact 2 skaters got disqualified for messing this up. I'll have to go back and look but I don't think I have raced the 1000m before, so my time of 2:04:61 is likely my benchmark.

This race felt great. I went out hard, maintained a decent body position, worked my crossovers as best as I could and won my heat, placing 8th overall. That felt good.

We also had a 3000m points race, and in this style, it is a mass start with skaters that get lapped being pulled out. All but the top 5 skaters got lapped all at once. It was rather funny. But sadly most of us did not get to finish the race.  I ended up with another 8th place, but as I didn't get to do the final 3 laps it doesn't really matter.

Hopefully the weather allows for a little more skating this season, but darn, it is getting warm!