Friday, May 29, 2009

Soggy Bottom Boy

I did 6.2 miles outside tonight in the rain, in 51:35, or an 8:19 per mile pace. It's nice running in the rain when the weather is warm. Plus, I look great as a wet rat.

Last couple of notes about the Cabot Trail Relay. Click on the picture above to see our team. Go here to see some other pictures.

Also, I forgot to mention earlier that Ed Whitlock was at the relay, as he has been in the past. Go here to read a story about him, or here. An incredible runner.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Cabot Trail Relay, Part 2

I didn't get to bed until after 1 AM Saturday morning, yet I was up before 6 AM. I think I was just anxious or excited to have the weekend get underway. While waiting for some of the others to wake up, I walked around Baddeck a bit, grabbing a coffee and a newspaper. Gradually some of the other guys got up, and a few of us had breakfast. Mark, Greg and I headed out to leg 2 to catch Bernie in action. See him looking cool in the picture below.

We missed Norm's finish on the first leg, but he did quite well. We chatted with some folks at the leg 2 finish area, waiting and waiting for Bernie, until we realized he had already finished and was relaxing in the van with Norm. Larry then did the first of his two legs (he would also do leg 13 at 2 AM the next morning).

The next leg, the fourth, is one of the best. Runners beginning this leg can soon see the intimidating climb up Cape Smokey. The crowd support on this leg is great. See a picture below of the water support for this leg: the team was selling "fresh legs". As the top of the mountain is reached, many are hitting banging rocks on the guard rails, adding to the atmosphere. Darren, from Truro - who likes to fish for bass in the Stewiacke river in the spring - took on this run for us. He did a great job.

Phil took on the next leg. He approached it the way he does most things - all smiles. Here's a picture of him getting some support from Mark.

As for leg six ... well, it provided for some interesting times for the team. That's probably all that needs to be said for that leg. We got a late and fast recruit for the seventh leg, before Betty did a super job on leg 8! While Betty was running, I decided to head up to Cheticamp with Norm and Bernie to catch a few hours of sleep before my run the next morning. As we passed Betty, she looked very strong.

I can't comment much on legs nine through twelve, since I was sleeping or preparing to sleep. Greg stepped up and did two legs - nine and eleven. Nine is very tough, and eleven is not a piece of cake either. Pierre took on the hilly 10th leg for the second year in a row, and Pat did great work on leg twelve.

I woke up just as Larry was starting leg thirteen, his second leg of the race. Norm and I headed out in my van, providing support to him. It was dark and cold during the run, but the atmosphere was still electric. Norm and I got to the leg fourteen start, waiting for Larry to finish. I was freezing! When we met Larry after his run, he said not to worry about the temperature, and he was right. Within a minute of starting, I didn't even notice the cold. As for the run, I probably got a bit caught up in the excitement and went out too fast. I definitely did not have a negative split. The run itself wasn't too hilly, mostly just a series of rolling hills. It was interesting to start the run and see nothing but a line of reflective vests in the dark over the horizon. The sun started to come up just as I was running past Margaree Harbour, with stiff winds coming off it. I finished the run with an overall pace just slightly slower than my half-marathon pace in Fredericton two weeks earlier. I can't say I was thrilled with my time, but it was an exhilarating run and experience.

Peter took off on leg sixteen next, and he flew threw it, finishing 6th. Norm and I supported him, along with Wayne, and he looked very strong on his run. Wayne took on leg seventeen, and tried to temper people's expectations about his result, letting us know he hadn't trained much this year. Even with that, he did a bang up job, just like a good captain!

At the end of this leg, many people were relaxing and taking in a pancake breakfast. Among the relaxed participants were Mark Campbell and Jodi Isenor, pictured below. These two amazing guys ran the whole relay as as two-man team.

Mark wrapped up the weekend by taking on leg seventeen. The finish of this leg is wonderful - hundreds of people lined up along a road in Baddeck, welcoming each runner as they approach the finish. It's a fitting way to end the race.

After that, the wrap up meal and awards at the rink, with the most efficiently served steak and lobster dinner you could ever imagine, followed by the long drive home, with reflections on the great times during the weekend, and talk of taking it on again in future years.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Cabot Trail Relay, Part 1

It was a fantastic weekend in Cape Breton. The weather was perfect, and I was part of a great team. I loved my Cabot Trail Relay experience, and would definitely like to go again.

I traveled with three team members in my van, leaving Fredericton around 2:30, stopping in Truro for supper, and Antigonish for groceries, finally arriving in Baddeck shortly after ten, where we found our team members in fine spirits in their rooms at the Inverary Resort. I knew very few members of the team, but they warmly welcomed me right away. Mark and Greg had a tradition of closing down the ceilidh at the firehall, so we headed off there. They closed it down this year too, but unfortunately it was about 45 seconds after we walked in, as the event had already ended. So, we went to the bar at the resort, where a few of the team was taking in the local music and socializing.

Also occurring Friday night was a drinking game called "Pass the Chip". Here's how it works:

a) have a last minute pull-out from the race requiring someone to take on multiple legs.

b) Get a person who has drunk a fair bit to give that race chip to another decent and sober runner, letting him know he is now doing two legs.

c) Said sober runner, naturally, passes the timing chip onto another person, who agrees to take the leg. Of course, logically, only someone who had too much too drink would accept this.

d) In a room full of drinking runners, the current "two legger" now takes the opportunity to use "Hey - do you want to run a leg for us?" as an opening line to start conversations with women.

e) As a strategy to have the "two legger" give up on his schmoozing, one of the approached women says "Sure, I'll run it for you", and accepts the chip. As the inebriated (former) two-legger moves on to swoon another honey, she throws the chip into the bowels of a large garbage can.

f) The next morning, wake up the (now hungover) former two-legger, and tell him he is scheduled to run his "first" leg in a few hours. He denies having any knowledge of the extra leg, and there is no chip to be found.

g) Scramble for a runner to take the leg during the running of the relay race!

All of the above happened during the weekend, except for "e)". Actually, we can't even be sure "e)" didn't occur ... but somehow we did have to scramble on one of the legs. It just made for an even more interesting weekend!

I'll add more in a future post. Great weather, scenery, teammates and atmosphere made for a truly memorable experience.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Day of the Jackal

Each spring we have a family of foxes - a mother and three of four kits/pups - living around our back yard. This year has been no exception, as we have seen the momma and the four pups. A picture from a couple of years ago is shown below. Trust me, this year they look pretty much the same.

Tonight as I was mowing the lawn I saw a leftover from one of their recent meals. I moved it on to a wooden platform, and took the picture below. Not sure exactly what it is/was, maybe the leg of a rabbit? I snarled off a big bite and it tasted just like chicken.

I'm heading out to Cape Breton tomorrow, running leg 14 of the Cabot Trail Relay with the Fredericton Trail Masters. The description from the website follows below:

This long leg begins near dawn and is a 7.9 km level coastal run to Margaree Harbour. The leg heads inland & starts to rise gradually to a maximum elevation of 10m to finish at the Tourist Bureau on the left across from Margaree Lodge.

The leg begins at 3:37 AM, and is just under 20 kilometeres/12.5 miles, meaning I'll be finishing at the crack of dawn. I'm really looking forward to it. I'll try to take a picture or two and post them.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Campobello Island Weekend

As a child, I would occasionally visit my grandparents with my family in New Chester, in Guysborough County in Nova Scotia. New Chester is a very small place, really just a smattering of houses along a dirt road. The phone line in the house was on a party line, and my grandparents would listen to the pattern of the ring to know if a particular phone call was meant for them. There were so few vehicles in New Chester, that when people passed each other on the roads, they would routinely wave to each other, assuming they knew each other. I have memories of my grandfather sitting on a sofa in the front part of the house, with a car honking it's horn as it drove by. My grandfather didn't even look around, he just raised his arm in the air as a greeting, assuming the passerby would see this from the vehicle. Maybe this last thing is something I've invented in my mind over the years?? Maybe ... but it seems like a vivid memory to me.

Going to Campobello always reminds me a visiting my grandparents. It's a long drive to a small spot - small enough that as drivers pass each other in cars, they consistently wave to each other. I would guess about 8 in 10 vehicles do the thing where they slightly raise two fingers off the steering wheel as they approach an oncoming vehicle as a means of saying "hello". Kind of the vehicular equivalent of giving a slight nod of the head and rhetorically asking "How's it going?". As soon as I leave the island and head over to Maine (on the way back to mainland New Brunswick and Canada) I have the urge to continue waving to oncoming traffic. However, this phenomenon is restricted to Campobello. The good folks in Lubec (seen below from the Campobello side of the bridge), Maine don't seem to practise this ritual.

Unlike New Chester, there is something else to do in Campobello, as I managed to golf 9 holes a couple of times. Both times, I didn't see a single other person around me on the course. It was great, although my game was as bad as ever.

As for the running, I got in a little over seven miles with Faith Ann on Saturday. It was a slow pace (~10:20 per mile), largely due to her tweaking something in her calf. In the two days since then, she feels it is pretty close to being back to normal. On Sunday, I put in solo 10.5 miles at an 8:45 pace. Both runs started at the Herring Cove beach/campground, then heading past Roosevelt park. On the Saturday run we turned around shortly past the park, but on Sunday I didn't turn around until reaching Canadian customs by the bridge.

The 10.5 miles on Sunday seemed like an ok "long run" distance after the half marathon last weekend, and before the leg I'll be doing in the Cabot Trail Relay this coming weekend! More on that later ...

Our next trip to Campobello? Perhaps it will be the weekend of June 6th. I've been considering running in the Cobscook Bay 10k, and when I mentioned it to Faith Ann tonight, she seemed ok with it. Not sure about this yet, but the course is between Fredericton and the island. If we do go, I expect Andrew, whose blog I really enjoy reading, to finish about 13 to 15 minutes ahead of me. I would like to finish my next 10k in under 50 minutes ... but we'll see.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Fredericton Half Marathon - May 10th, 2009

My second half marathon took place during the Fredericton Marathon last Sunday. It had been four months since my first half, and I would have been thrilled to have finished in under 1:50, but realistically I was just hoping to knock a few minutes of my first finishing time of 1:56. A photo taken during the expo is below. Had I known I would be doing this little blog, I may have taken more pictures (or at least one!) during race day. The expo was small, but I don't think it's the selling feature that draws folks to this marathon.

The course was an out and back, mixing walking trails with city streets. It was not originally slated to be an out and back, but the winter was not kind to parts of the trail, causing the organizers to update the route a few days before the race. I ran the original route a few weeks before the race, and there were some parts of the trail where it was not possible to run, with much uneven elevation with many large rocks and small hills to traverse. The weather called for rain on the race morning, but it held off until just after I finished. Unfortunately for my wife, who finished a bit behind me, she did catch a bit of it.

I wore my Garmin during the race, and although my pace was a bit faster than I would have expected over the first couple of miles, I generally controlled myself and kept a steady pace throughout. For much of the race I was paced by an older man wearing a Boston Marathon shirt. I'm not very outgoing at the best of times, and rarely say a word to anyone during a race. However, Frank (my pacer) was happy to speak to other folks, and I caught parts of his conversation. He is from Saint John, ran Boston this year, and has already qualified for next year. Well, I checked out his running history a bit, and noticed he ran the Run for Hospice 5k the day before the half, finishing with a time of 25:36. That sounds pretty good, but if you look at the link I provided, you'll see that he's 70 years old! Turns out he also ran the Boston Marathon last month in 4:05. That is incredible.

As I said, I kept a steady pace, largely due to Frank, except for the three or four aid stations where I got water and took a Clif Shot Block. I have yet to master the art of drinking on the run, and I'm not sure I ever will master it. It wasn't so bad though, because I probably walked for only about half a minute at each station. After the race, I checked my pace for each mile, and it pretty consistently clocked in between 8:25 and 8:40, and my finishing chip time was 1:52:20. I was happy (but not thrilled) with it, given that it was four minutes faster than my time four months earlier. My joke now is that if I can improve by a minute every month, in a few years I'll be ready for the Olympics. This course, like Tallahassee, is relatively flat, so I can't use hills as an excuse. Also, the weather was nice and cool, and not too windy, except for a short stretch along the river at the end. Unlike Tallahassee, I did seem to have enough energy at the end to put in a good finishing kick. Perhaps that means I left a bit of "speed" on the course?

An acquaintance I mine who ran the course about 15 minutes faster than me said the he didn't look at his watch once until he hit the 16k mark. That made me stop and wonder if someday I'll run a half "Garmin free", maybe even skipping a regular watch, just to see how it turns out. I'm contemplating running the half at the Marathon by By The Sea as a training run prior to the PEI marathon. Perhaps I'll give it a shot there, since it won't be a race where I particularly care about my time. The other thing I want to try sometime in a race is the run/walk Galloway method, to see what difference that makes. I haven't checked my manhood at the door and done any training with this method yet, but I know a lot of people do like it.

Well, that's too much writing for this post. I'm in Campbello with the family for the weekend. Perhaps I'll post a short note about my runs here sometime over the next day or two.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Intro and Background

So I started this running thing about a year ago, largely because I felt guilty seeing my wife getting in runs and improving her fitness level. A year and 45 or so fewer pounds later, I have completed my second half marathon.

Before a brief race report of my Fredericton half marathon, I’ll provide a short history of my “racing” career to date. I have done two 10k races; the first race (my first race ever) was the 2008 Fall Classic in Fredericton, clocking in with a time of 57:26. Truthfully, I was thrilled just to finish in less than an hour. Five weeks later, I ran another 10k, at the Legs for Literacy in Moncton. I managed a 54:49 there, and I was happy with the improvement from my first race.

The cold days of winter followed, and I did my best to keep running regularly, mixing in both treadmill and outdoor runs. This was also the period in which I started adding long runs (10 miles+), and doing some speed and tempo work. At some point (perhaps shortly before Christmas?) my wife and I thought we would tackle a half marathon in someplace that had relatively warm weather during January and February. We settled on the Tallahassee half for this reason, and also because it was a very flat course. I finished this in 1:56 and change. It was a wonderful experience, and I again was very happy with my time. I would recommend the Tallahassee marathon; as I mentioned, it is a flat course, the size is reasonable (about a thousand participants), the race is well organized, and it finishes in the FSU track.

I continued with regular running following this race, and my next race was my first 5k, a fundraiser in Lincoln for the IWK. This race was on March 15th, just as the weather was starting to get slightly warmer. I pushed hard to finish in under 25 minutes. A near puking experience with about 50 meters remaining almost dashed my chances, but I squeezed in a 24:57.

As I said earlier, I'll provide a brief - likely very brief - note on the most recent race, the Fredericton half marathon, later. I plan to keep the blog updated on a regular basis until after I complete my first marathon, planned for October 18th in PEI. After that .... well, we'll see. My wife and I are planning on running the half or full marathon in Houston in January, so it's possible I'll keep blogging beyond October. However, I expect like so many other thousands of bloggers, I may find it starting to become tedious after the initial 'euphoria' ... but one can never be certain.