Monday, October 2, 2017

One Weekend Two Races 2017

This was a big weekend. I ave done this in the past, and was even injured at the time. That was when I was dumber. I am less dumb now, notice I said less.

Anyway, Saturday started with my now traditional walk to the start of Leg 2 of the Rum Runners Relay in Halifax. With my running clothes in a bag, a little food and a hobo like attitude I search for my team of people I don't know and prepare for a day of trying to find rides.

This year I was running Leg 7 of the relay. After last weekends decent result in the MEC race, I figured I would be able to do well enough and keep my streak of top 7 finishes alive. Unlike last week, this Leg of the relay was anything but flat. It was hilly, and while it doesn't have the total vertical gain of some of the Legs, it has the most per kilometer. At 9. 4 km long it has 122 m of elevation.

Oddly it is the hills that made me dread this Leg. Nope, it is the fact that every year I have attended the Rum Runners Relay, this particular Leg is super hot and humid. It takes place at 1:50 pm and just seems to be tough weather wise. This year though I lucked out. The recent humidity had broken, the clouds were in and the air was cool. Perfect for running.

I lined up near the front and after our race brief we were off.  I decided to run mostly by feel on this one and tucked in with the leaders, four of us together. Soon we were the only four in sight of the lead car.  Drew had held back a little bit but was now moving to take the lead, with the runner from A Few Good Men with him. I held my ground, knowing the big hills were coming. 

As we fought up the first of these hills, it became apparent that the Mountain View Runner (I think also named Ian) was starting to fall back a bit on pace, so I bridged him and took solo command of third place. I pushed hard up and down each hill, remembering all the extra training I had done earlier in the year for Bluenose. It certainly helped.  And before you know it, I had beaten the 5 monsters and was in the final 3 km, which is relatively flat. By this time I finally glanced at my watch and was really happy to see my pace was rather good. I also finally glanced back and saw I was all alone.

I won't lie. At the 8 km lark I was tired. But my core work this year has done wonders and I was able to keep running strong. The finish is a tight 180 degrees and up hill. Knowing that all that matters is time, I pushed through hard and finished third in 34:26 with an average pace of 3:43 (it was 150m short per my Garmin). My official pace is 3:40. Not as nice as last years win, but I will say a far better run.

How did the saga of my hobo journeys go? Well I had made it to Leg 7 start, then was left behind after my great run, found a drive with Denis, refound my other drive, but lost my pack and change of clothes, then got all that back and finally managed to get home somehow!

The next day as I awoke early (again) and dragged my carcass out of bed, I was ready for another race. This time the every fun Riverport Duathlon. I knew I was not going to be able to give this race my A game, but it is too much fun not to do.

The field was down in overall size this year, but the number of tough athletes was way up. It was a great field. I hoped I would be able to at least give some good runs, as I hadn't done a lot of bike training this year. My warm up run though made me feel like crawling back into bed.

Still I took to the start line and was soon running. The pace seemed fine at the start, though ultimately my Garmin wasn't doing anything so, I had no idea what I was running. So I hoofed it as best as I could. I quickly fell into 6th place, and while I feel like I could have pushed it past some of the guys ahead of me when fresh, I certainly couldn't that day. Still I apparently had enough oomph for a 3:36 pace and a 14:22 run for the first 4km. (Last year I did 14:08 in the first run)

That isn't me waving

To the bike, but not before a brain failure made me have to go back and remove my running shoes. D'oh. But then I was riding. This year I wanted to see how well I could do  riding by cadence and trying to keep to high. So I didn't look at distance or speed (I know the course well enough though). I did well but the uber bikers did manage to pass me. Eventually dropping me to 12th overall. The second half of the ride was also really rough with some nasty paved areas. I wish I could say that my cadence experiment was a success but then I was about 1 minute slower on the bike this year. But a fair comparison? Probably not. While riding the flats was fine, the hills just couldn't be over with quick enough, as my quads were burning.

  I was happy to see the finish line though and made a decent dismount (with a flying bike shoe). My transitions were pretty mediocre though, like much of the race I was just kind of in a fog. I could certainly race, but had no zip. Both my transitions were about4-5 seconds slower than last year.

But now, I had the chance to shine! My 2016 result was bad, as my injured knee didn't allow me to actually run the second run, rather I did a shuffle jog sort of thing. This time I headed out and pushed the pace. With about 500m to go I finally caught the 11 place guy Paul, and overtook him, claiming a small victory. I ran the second leg in 14:53 for a 3:43min/km avg pace. I was happy with that, and a 1:20 time overall. That was 2 and a half minutes faster than last year.

Not my crowning achievement, but overall I was pretty happy. I was inured, I had the strength to push through two tough events and give it my best effort in both.  Certainly I wouldn't suggest racing back to back events that mattered to you (though I do love both of these events), but finding those limits can be something nice.

Then we finished the weekend with a 7 kilometer hike.

Now to rest up for Moncton in 3 weeks.

Monday, September 25, 2017

MEC Race 4 - September 2017

So it was race 4 in the 5 race MEC series. My first 3 went well with 3 second place medals. But those were races in tougher conditions (winter, heat, hills!).  This race is flat and in the Fall. So while there was some humidity, the air temp was cool enough and the course was pretty easy.

I started with a warm up run of about 4 km at a super easy pace, finishing around race pace to warm up the legs. I had opted for the 15 km option, as I wanted to see how my half marathon training was progressing. Ideally I wanted to run my A goal pace on this course (I have a B goal pace as well, but that is another post). That would be a 3:48 min/km.

This year, due to the number of people entered in the race, the 15 km race started first. We lined up and were soon off. The top 4 men soon formed a pack and we took off from the rest of the runners. After a bit, even though I was feeling good, I glanced at my watch and saw we were running too fast for my goals on the day, more in the 3:33 range. I eased a little and soon found a good sustainable pace of 3:44. My placing was now 4th about 100m behind 2nd and 3rd.

The first 2 water stops came and went and I didn't bother grabbing anything. The final stop on the trail was the turn around, and as it required me to come to a crawl to get around the cone, I grabbed a glass of water and rinsed my mouth out before taking off.

My pace had dropped off  a little bit and I was now averaging 3:46 as we headed through kilometer 8 and 9.  I didn't look at my watch much but kept my distance to the top 3 runners fairly even, running on feel.

By kilometer 11, I was starting to feel the humidity a bit, but was enjoying the on trail shade.  Now we were starting to come across runners from the 10 and 5km races, which did require a bit of moving about on the trail, though everyone was pretty spread out and it wasn't a huge issue.

I knew I was starting to fall back pace wise, but with 2 kilometers to go I hit 3:48 as an average and knew I had to sustain that. I picked up my pace a little and had a good effort for the final kilometer. I crossed the finish line with a time of 56:47 and an average pace of 3:48. My perfect goal pace. So while I missed out on a medal, it was still a success.

What I learned was 3:48 is sustainable, but to be cautious at the start not to push much harder. I'm not sure I could have been much faster, though today (the day after) I feel pretty good, which means there was another level of harshness I could push down into if need be.  

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Maritime Race Weekend Pace Bunny

The 2017 Maritime Race Weekend has come and gone. Many runners, decent weather and even beer were to be had. For the second year in a row I decided to Pace Bunny the event, helping others get to a goal finish time. I opted for the 10km 45 min duties again this year, just like last, though this year i was all fit and not slightly injured, which made the day even nicer.

So while I said nice weather, it was a bit humid, and that meant the heat level felt a lot higher than usual. Some runners that pushed really hard certainly felt it. Still, it wasn't raining, or windy and therefore, I was happy.

I started the day with a warmup run with Craig and Stacey (more for them than for me), then settled into the start line area to allow people to find me, should I be there goal running pace.

Soon we were off and I fell in behind the fastest runners, making sure they had a clear exit (the start is a bit crowded and tight). Once we made it to the street, everything opened up and I soon got into a good pace and rhythm.

Immediately I begin chatting with my runners. The start of a race is often the worst part. By talking and laughing we keep the effort level a little subdued, this allows them not to overdo it and burn out fast.  This is a flat and fast race except for the 1 decent hill at the 3 km mark. So keeping everyone in check is ideal for a fast finish.

Unlike last year, I managed to hold a good crowd around me for most of the race. By the worst of it (the hill section) I had a great crew of 5 runners keeping pace.  Then by around the 6.5 km mark, the first took off. By 8 km in the next took off and finally I was all alone. My little ones had gone on to glory, but I was happy to finish solo.

But it wasn't over there. Back out I went and found my buddy Jon in the half marathon, pacing him to the finish. Then Shane and finally a whole host of others, eventually clocking in over 25km of running for the day.   It was a great time, and I look forward to putting the ears on again soon.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Canicross Excitment 2017 - Long Lake Lap Dog

So not only do I race and train (which I do a lot) and occasionally coach but I get involved in organizing races as well. Last weekend was such a case, with the third Canicross race being held under the Maritime Association of Harness Dog Sports (MAHDS) banner.

This race was held in Long Lake Park in Halifax. Without a lot of time to organize, the field was small, but this allowed us to test out an interesting race format.  As well we got to try out some new race timing software on our phone, ideal for small races like ours.

First off, for those that don't know, Canicross is a sport where humans and dogs run together via a hands free harness system. This leads to some fantastic run speed as well as the ability to really work with your dog in a race as a team, not just run with your dog.

Our race was a two lap time trial, with each lap (3km) separated by a rest period. The racers hit the start line, two at a time with 30 second intervals.

The new software is called Cloudtimer. Due to the small size of our race series right now it worked really well. Low priced, offering mass start or time trial based starts and the ability to use a smart phone to do all the onsite work, it was a treat. I was even able to change the start order on the fly. Apparently it is able to  also hook up via bluetooth to various auto timers, which is something that may make sense in the future.  Timing Canicross races can be a bit tricky, but this part of the day went really well.

The 2 lap time trial system was great though. All racers got 2 races for a low price, the ultimate winner Sarah with Eddie, winning both heats.

This a great and growing sport in the Maritimes, with two more races in the series this year. Huge thanks to our support from Inukshuk Dog Food, Salomon, and Aerobics First. Now enjoy a few more great pictures, with more on our Facebook Page, linked above.

Monday, August 7, 2017

2017 MacPass Mile Bridge Run

So it is Natal Day weekend in Halifax and after a 2 year absence, the MacPass Mile Bridge Run is back. Conveniently one of the bridges in Halifax is a mile long, and for many years a free mile run has been held on it, with cars being excluded for the entire morning. I have raced this once before in 2014, where I finished 13th overall, 4th in my division (Masters) and a time of 5:18.

That year I raced this on a whim, as I had been preparing for my marathon and didn't do a lot of summer racing. This year I raced it on purpose, and while I didn't specifically training for a mile race, I did incorporate some 800m repeats in speed work this year at mile pace.

Race morning came and we had a bit of rain in the early hours, but as we arrived to sign in at the race, the rain had cleared off and the air was just slightly warm.

First up was the women's race. We watched as the first few ran to the finish with some speedy times. Then we had to take off to the other side to get ready for the men's start. Just as we did, the rain started. It came hard and fast. We got soaked. So much for staying dry for the run.

It came time to line up, heavy soaked shoes and socks and all. I took to the front to get ready and then we were off.

The run starts on a downhill for a couple hundred meters before starting a climb up. I picked a decent pace and just held it. The uphill felt perfectly fine and as I crested the top of the hill (likely around halfway through the race) I was in 3rd place overall and felt fine. As the downhill portion started, I lost 3rd place but picked up my overall pacing. Like any good mile race, the aches and pains of running started to come on strong. The race finish as the downhill settles out to a more or less flat 300 meters of agony.

One more person passed me at this point but I was more concerned with overall time. I pushed as hard as I could, but ultimately did not make my goal of a sub 5 minute mile. I clocked in officially at 5:07, 5th overall, 3rd age group. It was a good effort and I think I ran it well. The rain that soaked us certainly did not help and may have slowed me down a bit, but who knows.

Shaving 11 seconds off my mile time after a 3 year absence wasn't too bad though. Maybe these aging legs have some speed still. Maybe the sub 5 min mile can happen. It was nice to hear my name announced during the awards though. 

Friday, August 4, 2017

Product Review - Rekarb Gels

So I was given a couple of samples of Rekarb gels to try out. Newish on the market, I hadn't given them a try yet but have certainly tried a huge variety of other gels. Usually most are pretty similar, in that they are a simple sugar, with flavouring and electrolytes and possibly caffeine (sometimes protein as well). That doesn't mean they all taste the same or even all go down as easy. I definitely prefer some gels more than others. 

What was nice about these (aside from them being a Canadian company) is the ingredient list is so minor. Maple Syrup (the simple sugar), Sea Salt (the electrolyte) and in the case of the 2 "flavoured" versions Cocoa and Matcha Tea (both of which contain some version of caffeine as well as other electrolytes). None of those ingredients are extracts, or heavily processed versions, simply the raw(ish) form. These aren't maple flavoured, they are essentially maple syrup.

Their website contains all the marketing jingo, though even it is simple and sticks to the basics. This company really does keep things easy going.

So enough of the marketing stuff anyway, how were they? Well I gave them all a try in a variety of settings, though all at a hard pace to see how they really went down. I tried the first one at a Duathlon, the next at a Triathlon and the third at a hard trail run in humid hot conditions.

I am pleased to say that they all sat extremely well and gave me no issues. The texture is very fluid, so they go down easy and fast. The one issue is that (and this is the same with all liquidy gels) you can easily get it on your hands, which is a bit sticky. I figured that out quickly after my first one and was more prepared on the second.

The maple flavour (being the man ingredient) is strong. So if you gate maple syrup, you will hate these. I like it and loved these. My favourite was the Cocoa, and I normally hate chocolate gels.

I don't use a lot of gels in training, but I will be switching to using these a lot more in racing. On a hot day when my mouth is dry, the fluid nature of these makes them so much more palatable. And as well, in the cold, they don't get thick either. Win win.

As is always the case, try nutritional products outside of a race setting first (unless you are me) to make sure you can stomach them. But it is great to see a new player on the market, whose product is just that little bit different.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Aylesford Triathlon July 2017

So Sunday was my first Triathlon of the season. Aylesford Lake. This year I decided to do the Sprint distance, rather than the Standard / Olympic I did last year. Mostly this was due to my complete lack of swim training this year compared to last. While I am sure I could make the Oly distance swim, I knew it wouldn't be pretty, especially if the water temp made it wetsuit illegal.

So race morning came and I arrived early at site. The race was declared wetsuit legal, but only just as the air temp was cool enough. The water temp was right on the border. So I decided to use my sleeveless suit, which I find makes my arms less tired and is also much quicker to get out of.  After setting up my bike in transition, I put on the suit and got a warm up swim in.

The race brief happened, then we waited on the beach as the Standard/Oly distance swimmers took off.  Eventually it was our turn and we headed to the water.

I entered at a more causal pace, as I wanted to start the swim easy. Sadly, I hit the water and started to push a little too hard. Things were going okay, but I started to breath heavy and had to slow down a bit to catch my breath. I got going again, but was now pushed fairly wide of the first buoy. Still, I kept going. Then the waves of a distant motor boat started to hit us. Nothing too big, but I ended up gulping down some of the water and again had to deal with that. Finally i got to the far buoy and headed to shore.

Ultimately my stopping and my lack of endurance showed in my final time. Also my apparent inability to sight properly didn't help either. My swim was about 850m rather than 750m and i got out of the water in 17:44, the worst swim I have had in a long time. Oh well. I was 41st now and headed to the bike.

A quick transition (44 seconds and 3rd in time) and I was riding. I had many places to make up and wasted no time. By 10km into the 20 km bike ride I had moved into 10th place overall and pushed as hard as I could. I knew my run would be decent and was willing to sacrifice a little speed to get as close as possible to others. With 5km to go I had moved into 8th place overall and that was as much as I could do on the bike.

I finished the ride with the 4th fastest bike split at 33.4 km/hr avg speed for the 20.5 km course. Some people found this course hilly. Other than one big climb (excluding the initial climb from the beach) I found the hills to be mild, long but shallow in pitch.  That allowed me to hold a better rhythm. My second transition from bike to run was 27 seconds, only good for 5th overall. I did screw up putting on my first shoe and had to readjust it. But overall it went well.

I took off on the run, and is usually the case, the first kilometer or so is tough o get your legs to full extension. Still I reeled in the next two runners by the 1.5 km mark and firmly planted myself in 6th place. As I approached the turn around positions 4 and 5 were headed back but were likely 800m or so ahead of me. My stride started to open up and I was able to push a little harder. I reached the final hill down (about a 400m descent) and ran towards the finish. I never was able to catch the next two guys, but got within 30 seconds. A better swim and who knows.

 My run was the fastest of the day at 19:30 for the 5km. That was what I had. And truthfully it was the first time in a long time that a run actually felt good (well after I got warmed up). So that was good.

I finished in a time of 1:15. Not my best but decent. I was really happy with the bike and run and transitions. Ideally I "should" have been able to knock 3 minutes or so off that swim, but it wasn't to be that day. But how fast are the 40 year olds? 6th place was only good enough for 4th in my Age Group. Zoom.

Next up? Still planning on what to do. The mojo is starting to finally come back from Bluenose, so i don't want to let that slip away. I also don't want to over do things.