Monday, May 20, 2013

The Speed Keeps Coming All Due to Heart Rate Zone Training - Bluenose Half Marathon 2013

So here we are at phase 2 of my journey through Heart Rate Zone training. You all read my last post about this right? If not it is here. So as you know I was tested in the winter and my heart rate training zones were established. This work was done by Jeff Zahavich through Kinesic Sport Lab. So after the 5K Lung Run this Spring, I was retested to establish my new training zones, as I had plateaued with the current ones. As I mentioned in the previous post, my speed increased quite drastically in my zones, and I was happy.

So my next big event was going to be the Bluenose Half Marathon. I was quite excited the weekend before as I went for a final long run. My runs this year have mostly been built around time and heart rate (of course) and I really only look at pace as a data point when I am analyzing my training after the fact. for this run I had set out to run for 1 hour 45 minutes at Zone 2. This would likely be far more time on my feet than I was expecting during my race, but it fit in well with my goal of 25% of my weekly running being the long run. This 1:45 run ended up being 23 km long with an average pace of 4:34 km/min. 3 years ago I wasn't racing my first half anywhere near that pace. And last year I managed to eek out a race pace of 4:22 min/km while killing myself enroute. So to do this as an easy run in training? Well awesome.

I was looking forward to the race at this point, injury free, well rested. Ahh life was grand. Then I thought, well what sort of pace am I actually looking for to achieve my goal. I had not been thinking pace for ever at this point.

I wanted to beat 1 hour 30 minutes for this run. Last year was 1:32. So some quick calculations showed I was going to need a 4:16 pace. And to get to 1:25 a 4:01 pace. All of a sudden I was freaked out. Ahh, that seemed way too fast. Sure I was running sub 4 min pace in short races and in interval sessions, but to hold that for 21.1 kms?

As is usually the case I play it quite conservative with anything over 10 kms. So the plan was to head out and try to hit the pace needed for 1:30 and re-evaluate as need be over the course of the race.

So Bluenose morning arrived. It was sunny but really cold. When we left the house it may have been 4C, a far cry from last years event that was in the low to mid 20'sC. This presented a dilemma about what to wear? In the end I decided to tough out the start of the race and dress for the hopefully warmer weather part way through the run. So as I lined up I was shivering in shorts and a light top, but at least that took my mind off the speed I was going to try and muster up.

Bang and we were off. So as soon as this settled down about 500 meters in I finally picked my pace. Now here my heart rate monitor was failing me as the air was so dry I lacked a good connection. But thanks to training, I was able to match my heart rate to my perceived exertion, so I went with that until I got sweaty enough to have a true heart rate reading. I settled into a pace of 4:16 min/km for the first few kilometers and felt great. A few people passed by, some people dropped off and things were feeling good.

My fueling strategy was easy, grab a water and Gatorade from each water stop and take a mouthful of each as best I could while not slowing down. As in the past this strategy didn't fail me.

My pace picked up a bit and I tried to keep my pace and heart rate happy. I was running high Zone 3 most of the way, peaking occasionally into low Zone 4.  And as I ran by the 10 km sign at 41 minutes I was smiling. Four years ago I did the Bluenose 10km race in 48 minutes and killed myself doing so. Here I was running easy.

I kept this pace / heart rate up for the next 8 kilometers without issue (I went slightly slower up some of the steep uphills), then after what would be my last water stop at the 18 km sign, I picked up the pace. I also stopped really looking at my computer and ran a lot by feel. I started to pick off a few other runners that were starting to fail. In this race until the last 800 meters or so, it is all a version of uphill now. But I was strong, thanks to the great running and strength training I had done.

From here to the end it all seemed so easy, there was a huge downhill, a crowd of runners from the 10km race to contend with, but I was feeling good and happy. I didn't have my standard angry horror face on and cruised over the finish line standing tall and in 1:26. That was a six minute PB in a half marathon and I must say that I was conservative for much of this race. So was I happy? Oh yeah.

Again I can't say enough about this new system of heart rate training I have begun. I will be sticking to it for sure as I head on to my next big adventure of a full marathon in August.

A quick look at last year versus this year:

Last year approaching finish line, core collapsing shoulders dipping to one side (and though hard to see) grimace on face.

This year approaching finish line, standing tall, core strong, shoulders straight across, hips even, calm look on face, relaxed hand. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

2013 Benny Bulldog Duathlon

So a cold but sunny morning greeted us for the 3rd Benny Bulldog Duathlon. This year the event was a 4km trail run (flat), 28 km bike ride (rolling hills), and a 4km run to finish (same as the first).

So I have spent a lot of time training to run over the Winter and Spring, with minimal training on my bike. I mean I commute to work by bike and I have rode on my trainer a bit, but I had actually only done a few longish rides on the open road. So I had to rely a lot on my past bike fitness for this race.

Most people bundled up a  bit before the event. I think it may have been about 5C, though the wind was low, which was nice. I opted to just put on some arm warmers, mostly for the bike portion. I also put some very thin glove liners in my rear jersey pocket, just in case the cold on the bike became too great.

Earlier in the week I had been fighting a cold, which luckily didn't stick and was nursing a bit of a sore calf from the crazy trail run I had done the previous Saturday. But by the end of the week I was feeling much better, so at least I was going into this event fairly well rested, if not peaked on training.

The first run began and I found my pace quickly, rising from 6th to 4th early on and holding it. I was amazed at the speed the first place guy, Greg, took off with, but was extremely happy to see that I was essentially keeping up with both Shawn and Patrick. We all came into T1 in a perfect line, me in 4th place but only listed as 4 seconds behind 2nd (likely the amount of time it took to press the lap button on the timing device).

I opted for this first race to go ahead and try a "flying" mount onto the bike. I had practiced a few times the day before and all seemed to go well. Still I took it cautious and did more of a slightly rolling mount. I had no issues getting into my shoes as I hit the road now in 3rd place! My run time was 16:02 for the run, which was really closer to 4.3 kms. I was pretty happy with that

Of course there were a lot of really strong cyclists right behind me and the rollers took their toll. By the turn around I was passed by 3 people. I was able, though, to keep within sight of Alan in 5th place and restrict my losses to just those competitors.

 I rolled into T2 with the 7th fastest bike ride of the day for a time of 46:44 over the 28 km course. My bike computer had me listed at around 36km/hr. So while I was disappointed to lose all those places, I was pretty happy with my speed overall. And from the picture I saw of my ride, I have some spare speed likely by adjusting my fit a little.

I did a conservative flying dismount and quickly ran my bike to T2. The switch to my runners was quick and I spared a second to remove my arm warmers as I was getting warm. Then off I ran with Alan in sight.

I gave it all I had in my attempt to catch both Alan and Kevin, who where within sight, but alas I was only making small amounts of time on them and the 4 km distance was just not enough. I ended my race in 6th overall, 2nd Age Group. But I would be rather excited to see that I managed the fastest 2nd run overall and was ranked 2nd with the combined times of both runs. I was some 20 seconds faster than the second place runner. That was very exciting. My second run time was 17:27 which included my T2 time. My Garmin had me only 47 seconds slower than Run 1 at 16:47. Regardless, all that run training is paying off big time.

Next Duathlon - Navy Du at Shearwater. I look forward to it as the first run is longer and the bike ride less hilly. We will see how I fare!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

2013 McNab Island Trail Run

Okay so the running has been going great. And I have the Bluenose Half marathon coming up. And I decided to run a half marathon trail run for fun 3 weeks in advance of said Bluenose race. Wise? Well who knows about wise, but fun? Yeah. And it was a fund raiser for the McNab Island Society, so that was nice.

Well for starters it wasn't quite a full half marathon (well that sounds weird), due to some course changes it was supposed to be 20 kms. Still a good run. It ended up being less, well for most, well anyway I will explain that later.

Early on Saturday morning we boarded the ferry for a ride out to McNabs Island in Halifax harbour. My wife and I were looking forward to this event especially because we had never been out here before. It is an interesting island with an interesting history. But I won't get into that.

One neat feature was that instead of race numbers, we had race names. Islands to be exact and somehow I ended up with java. Perfect for my coffee loving self.

I don't normally do trail runs. Sure I hike and I like to train on crusher dust trails, but a real trail run? Nope. I don't even have trail shoes, so I wore my old New Balance 890's. Maybe a bad choice but I survived. The course also had no water stops, so I had to bring my own drink with me, which I carry in a waste belt. Nothing like an extra pound of weight to lug around.

The course was described to us and was marked with small orange flags. A few volunteers were scattered around the Island to help guide us. I figured I would follow someone.

So off we started and I took it fairly easy at the beginning. The run started on large rounded gravel, then quickly switched to a nice smooth path. This lead to a dirt/grass path out and back and then back to the "road." Up and down the course went and finally we made it to the beach where we had to run through thick wet sand. Still it wasn't too crazy, yet. The beach turned into large beach stones and debris as we tried to avoid getting hit by the in coming tide. Eventually the ocean got my foot and it was soaked. Oh well. Up and over some fallen trees and an old piece of a wharf  then we turned back to the main road finally, but not before scrambling over thin board that was the sole bridge over a giant puddle.

Now here is the confusing bit. We were supposed to take a turn and go in land, but the volunteer I think was confused and waved us through and we continued down the main road, past the start and up a hill where we would do an out and back though thick grass and finally return to the start. That was one lap of two.

So here I was thinking, well that wasn't too bad, but then I noticed we hadn't done a full 10 km. So did I miss something. I was following all the leaders and people were behind me, so if I missed i I was glad we all did.

On the second pass through, we were finally given the go to turn towards the in land portion of the run. And what we missed the first time through made me glad I didn't have to run it twice. To start we climbed. Up, up, up then up some more. By the top I had slowed to an almost walk before we started to weave through a tight path and through marsh. I almost lost my sneaker twice. Over rocks, around boggy bits, then downhill and up and all of this was only about 3 km long, but what a 3 km it was. Sadly I came by a runner that had fallen and likely broken her ankle. Luckily for her she had a good crowd attending. My wife was running with her when she fell, so good on Elizabeth for tending to her immediately.

Eventually we came out on the main road. I had been running with the same group of guys for most of the time. We had one other guy with us for most of the first lap, but eventually he faded. I had nothing to speed and catch up with my two fellow runners so was quite happy when I ran across the finish line in 7th overall. With the "detour" the main race was only about 18 km long or so (my Garmin conked out - I think due to my needed to practically walk at points). I finished with a time of 1:18 and was glad with that. It bodes very well for my Bluenose time, as the Bluenose won't have all the crazy obstacles to deal with.

 So trail running? yeah, it is a blast and hard as heck. But I will probably lay off those until I A: get actually trail shoes and B: practice running on those. Ouch. I spent the next few days with really sore legs and a strained calf. Rest and a trip to my chiropractor helped get that sorted out.

Next up my first Duathlon of the season. Oh and new shoes, I always leave that too long.

Oh and Elizabeth was having a great race until she had to stop to help out. I think she is a trail runner at heart.