Sunday, October 25, 2009

Recovery Stuff

It has now been one week since the marathon, and I have run zero miles since then. I had planned it this way, to see if it would help my foot recover. In fact, I had said prior to the marathon that I would take two weeks off from running, but I believe I'll renege on that promise. I'm in St. Andrew's from Tuesday evening to Friday this week, and I'm going to try to find Mike's regular "Point Loop" running route, running it during a couple of evenings I am there. Unfortunately, Mike will be "offshore" during that time, so he won't be able to join me.

The recovery this week went very well. Other than my old foot injury, I felt generally back to normal by Wednesday or Thursday. I have an appointment with my doctor on November 2nd to discuss my foot, and also another thing I self-diagnosed a couple weeks before the marathon. Who needs a medical degree when you've got Wikipedia and WebMD? Surely my self-diagnosis couldn't possibly be incorrect, could it?

Assuming my health holds up and the weather doesn't turn too frigid, too soon, my next big race is the Houston Marathon, just 12 short weeks from today. The abbreviated training schedule probably means I won't have a great performance, but I am still looking forward to it. As for a goal time, I would be happy with a small improvement over PEI. The training plan, developed just minutes ago, is shown below. I have the option until December 10th off dropping back to the half from the full marathon, if I feel my health or training has not been to expectations.

To wrap up this post, a couple of additional pictures from the PEI marathon. This first one shows a close-up shot of my race bib. Note the "running clone droid" sticker on the bib. Cameron gave Faith Ann and I each one of these to put on our bibs for good luck.

The second picture is from the newspaper insert from race day. Note the fast looking guy in the bottom left, with the brim of his cap covering his eyes. It's none other than the 12th place overall finisher from last year - Andrew!

Monday, October 19, 2009

2009 PEI Marathon Race Report

A photo of Mike and yours truly during my toughest part of the race, through the middle of Charlottetown. This photo is courtesy of j.norman-bain, of Alex Bain fame.

It is now one day after the marathon, and I suppose I am feeling the way one is supposed to feel. The legs are a bit stiff, especially the quads and calves, but the feet surprisingly do not feel so bad.

Our marathon weekend started with the kids "spud run", with Cameron taking it in on a day that was cool with showers. With over 300 other kids and some parents, he ran the loop of the track normally reservered for horse races, finishing in 6 minutes, 40 seconds - apparently he is a "mudder".

We had a pasta meal that night, and I met Mike at a local coffee shop (taking in hot chocolate), chatting about the race to come, and some of Mike's past experiences. I was feeling anxious for the time to come.

The next morning, I got ready pretty early, and we headed to breakfast in the hotel. Faith Ann and I chatted with Judson Cassidy, from Grande Digue. His son Ryan had won the provincial cross-country 5k race the day before, and in his first marathon, Judson was trying to BQ. I felt so bad for him when I checked the results, and saw that he finished in 3:31:01. He missed qualifying by two seconds!

Just as we were getting ready to head on the bus to the marathon start, Faith Ann checked my shoes, making sure my chip was laced on. It's a good thing she checked! The lace went through a couple of loose ends of the chip, leaving it almost completely unsecured. I'm guessing the chip would have come off within the first ten minutes of walking around, if she hadn't checked it. That would have been great, running almost 4 hours without an official result. However, that was only my second bonehead move in my marathon preparation.

My first bonehead move came when I replied "No" to Faith Ann the night before, when she asked if I needed my Garmin charged. I foolishy assumed it was fine. Of course, as soon as I turned it on at the marathon start point, I saw the "Low Batteries" signal appear. Luckily, I had my own personal pacer with his own Garmin 405! During the course of the marathon, I must have asked Mike 50+ times what our pace was or what the overall time was. I think the only thing that must have annoyed him more during the day was when relay marathoners passed us on the course!

During our chat marathon eve, I mentioned to Mike that I was thinking of running the Mount Desert Island marathon next fall. Mike said it's a "marathon for marathoners", largely because there is only a marathon race, and no smaller races. I mentioned to Mike that it now has entries for three-person relay teams. I don't recall Mike's exact quote, but I think he would prefer to be passed by a woman 8-months pregnant over a relay runner. Here were a few of his reactions to some of these relayers passing us during the race:

  • "We'll see him again soon" - after being passed by a "heavier guy" wearing his best Walmart sweatpants. We caught up to him and passed him about 5 minutes later
  • "Runners don't dress like that" - when another relayer passed us (perhaps another Walmart shopper)
  • "Where did she come from !?!" - when we blew by a "much heavier gal" on the trail
  • no quote here .... just imagine Mike doing a faux sprint to catch a relayer, just after he passed us
Anyway ... on to the race ...

Here's a picture of Mike and I before the race ...

and here's a short video of the runners before the marathon start. Faith Ann is in the beginning of the video, and it ends when I find Mike, giving me the eager "thumbs up" sign.

When I started my marathon training in the spring, my goal was to break four hours. As I went through August and into September, I was feeling better about my running, and I thought I should set a higher goal. However, with my foot problems over the last few weeks causing my training to drop off considerably, I went back to being happy if I could break four hours. Mike was shooting for an overall pace of close to 5:30 per kilometer, which would have us finish around 3:51. I told him I would be thrilled with that, but I didn't know how realistic it was.

Mike let me know that we were going to start out pretty slowly, and speed up just a touch after a few kilometers, with the goal of maintaining a steady, manageable pace through the race, perhaps with a finishing kick over the last few kilometers. I was completely fine with that strategy, and I'm not sure I would have had the self-control to do it if Mike had not been there. Mike stuck to the plan (except I didn't come through with that finishing kick - spoiler alert!), and many times through the race he let me know when to dial it back a bit. For the most part, the plan worked out quite well. He drew an analogy to ultra marathon competitors who use ropes tied to each other, with one competitor towing the other. In our race, he was carrying the imaginary tow rope, and would give it a tug when I would get a bit too quick, too early.

The race took place in good running weather. It was cool, but not too cool, with a slight wind. There was cool rain or showers the days following and preceding the race, but luckily it missed us on race day.

We lined up for the start by the four hour pacer. We didn't stay back with him for any of the race, and (thankfully!) we didn't see him for the rest of the day. I did enjoy one quote he passed on to the masses just before the gun: "If you're feeling good at the half way point, don't worry: the feeling will pass."

We started out just as planned, dressed nice and warmly, sticking to a nice pace slightly slower than the planned overall pace. The start of the marathon route is very nice, running along the coast of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, with beaches, bridges, lighthouse, cottages, and other things they print over here on the tourism brochures. The start is also very flat, virtually no hills for the first 11 or 12 kilometers. Once we left the beach road, I took a gel at the water station, and we met Mike's wife and daughter, who were there with camera and video camera. We passed off our warmer layer of clothes to them ("Nice to meet you ... here's my sweaty jacket and gloves!"). They would meet us a couple more times on the course, cheering us on.

The end of the beach road also brought an end to the flatness, but the hills at this point were nothing too serious. With the nice pace, and the adrenaline still flowing, all was well. I think it was also at this point that Mike told me about his first Boston Marathon, and his adventure at mile 20. Great stuff, although I won't get into it here!

The half way point had us leave the road, and onto the packed trails. Another gel, a few cars with music blaring (Mike says "try not to speed up here"), and away we go. Still feeling good ... maybe too good. This is where Mike really kept me under control. After one of the kilometers, when I asked him for the zillionth time what our pace was, he just chuckled a little and said that the last kilometer was "Bad". I asked is "bad" fast, or is "bad" slow? He said "Right now, bad is fast".

Not too long into the second half, the legs started feeling a little heavy, but still not too bad. We hit 30k, Mike asks if I want to know the time, and I say sure. 2:45. That was my time for my 30k race - that I treated as a training run - that I ran in August. I felt much better in this race than I did at the end of that 30k, which made me feel good. One hour and fifteen minutes until 4 hours, and only 12k left. Mike had mentioned earlier in the race that once we hit 30k, he wouldn't pull on the "tow rope" anymore. However, while I wasn't feeling bad, I also didn't feel that I had the energy to really push it at that point.

We left the trail and hit the streets of Charlottetown with about 8k to go. This is where we hit the hills of the course. Mike had me run ahead of him, letting me set the pace at this point. Looking back at the splits on Mike's upload on runningahead, I'm surprised our pace wasn't really too bad on the first couple of hills. It was really the last four kilometers that I really died, with the pace over those averaging about 6 minutes per kilometer. However, there were a couple of larger downhill stretches in there too, but I obviously was too spent to take advantage of them.

I really have to give Mike credit for a few big things over those last few tough miles. For one, he let me hold his lucky beercap! Number two, he told me how he helped a woman once in a marathon who was having a hard time, by telling her to count. I told Mike that if I had to think about counting at that point, I might just throw up. Mike's strategy on the tough stretches (like the hills we were on at the time) was to count during exhales. Mike did this on the bigger hills, and it really did help. It not only distracted me a bit, but it also acted as a metronome for a piano player, helping me "keep my rhythm" on the route.

He tried to stress to me to mix up my stride a bit during the run, shortening it at times, to work some muscles and give others a break. I wasn't very good at this, although I did try it a few times. I kept going back to my "natural stride".

The last thing he told me, was to run through the last few water stops. Earlier in the race, we really didn't stop long at all on any of the stops, but we would occasionally slow down for a few seconds to drink. Taking Mike's advice, I still took water at the last 2-3 stops, but did so while on the run. After finishing the race, I can see why this was important. The minute I slowed down after we were done, my legs were like jelly. I don't know how I would have started up again over the last few miles if I had stopped, or even slowed too much.

Approaching the finish, I asked Mike a few times how much time we had left to four hours. A couple of times I considered stopping, but we pressed on. I'm not sure if I was running on my own if I would have continued without stopping.

The finish area was a real relief, but I didn't have the energy to spring to the end. We met up with Mike's wife and daughter, who took our picture. Cameron was also there with my mother-in-law, but unfortunately I didn't notice them until almost 45 minutes later, just in time for all of us to see Faith Ann finishing her run. She was the only one in the marathon to stick with the "to finish" pacer. She did great, especially considering she experienced some pain prior to the half way point that she put up with for the remainder of the run. Her first comment after she was done was "Never again". Then again, that's what Grete Waitz said after her first marathon!

That's probably way too much for now, although I expect I'll put out even more in a future post. This was one of the great moments of my life.

The picture below is of Faith Ann (again from j.norman-bain), at the finish. Her pacer is trying to decide if she should finish, or go back on the route and cheer others on. She decided to turn around and help out others. So ... there were lots of great pacers in this run!

Sunday, October 18, 2009


The PEI marathon was great. I was very pleased with my time. I can`t thank Mike enough - he was absolutely great, and there`s no way I could have managed that without him. He has had quite a comeback from his surgery in the spring.

More later.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

PEI Marathon - One Week Away!

The latest issue of Runner's World cited a study stating that consumption of beets can improve endurance by 16 percent. Guess what we had with our Thanksgiving Dinner? The bonus is that it took the place of cranberries, which I'm not a big fan of. The same issue also says that quercetin, of which apples are a great source, can boost endurance by 13 percent. Perhaps I'll get Faith Ann to try out a new recipe for "Ruby Beet and Apple Chutney"! I'm guessing she won't be jumping on that anytime soon.

I ran 32 miles for the week, just as the planned taper called for. Although the miles are fewer than they were a month ago, I've been doing them at a higher intensity than my typical runs through August and September. For example, my 12 mile run today was done at a pace just under 8:30 minutes per mile, which is faster than my typical twelve mile training run. It felt good, but the heartrate was higher than I could sustain for the full marathon. I'm still quite concerned that my mileage for the past few weeks is down quite a bit from my August and September training days. I expect Mike will dragging me through most of miles 19-26. I'll try to perk up for the final .2 miles through the finish chute, just to look good!

Despite my lack of confidence, I am very, very excited about the marathon, even if the current weather forecast is calling for rain on that day. Some quick bullets on things I am planning:

  • I don't plan on carrying any water with me. I think the support on the course should be sufficient. Or, maybe I'll just keep sticking out my tongue, and the sheets of rain water will sustain me.

  • I plan on taking gels about every 5 miles or 8 kilometers. I'll also take one shortly before the marathon begins.

  • I'll look to Mike a lot for the pace (as long as I stick with him!), but I'm sure I will be obsessively checking my Garmin as well. I think we're starting at a pace of around 8:45 per mile (just a touch faster than 5:30 per km) - aren't we Mike? - and see how the day plays out. I expect the pace will pick up a bit going down hills, and will slow a touch going up them.

  • Based on the expected temperatures, I'll be wearing some tried and true running shorts and a t-shirt. I think it would have to be pretty cold to force me to deviate from that.

  • I'll wear my Asics Gel Nimbus 9's. However, after the marathon I'm going to investigate the purchase of a pair of running shoes with more stability. Although PF may be an issue for me, my own diagnosis leads me to think I may have Posterior Tibial Tendonitis, perhaps due to slight over pronation. If the pain continues into November, I suppose the right thing to do is have an actual medical person (as opposed to an internet surfer) check it out.
** Excuse this interjection of a completely non-running note, as I'm watching the Patriots/Broncos football game. Coach Bill Belichik is wearing a huge puffy parka, with big pockets. Why does he stuff his challenge flag in his knee-high white athletic socks under his pant legs, rather than putting it in one of his pockets? **
  • I'll be up early the day of the marathon, and will have a light breakfast - bagel, maybe oatmeal, a little coffee, and I'll continue hydrating. I'm just hoping I get a decent night of sleep Saturday night.

  • I plan to have dinner the night before at a national pasta chain. The same chain has a place in Fredericton. I had dinner there the night before my best long run, as well as the night before my long run last week (same meal). That means I'm taking a pass on the marathon-sponsored dinner, but it's at another national chain restaurant anyway.
That's all I can think of for now. Normally I'm terrible for waiting until the last minute to pack. For this trip, I plan to be packed by mid-week, just so I can check my bag a couple of times to make sure I'm not forgetting anything. We're heading over Friday after work, and not coming back until Monday morning. The first race will be Saturday - Cameron is taking part in the kid's "Spud Run". I hope the little guy doesn't have to run (or run/walk/saunter/stroll) the entire kilometer in pouring rain.

I can't wait until next weekend!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Autumn Fun, Autumn Run

Here are a couple of pictures of Cameron and his cousin Matthew. These were taken in the backyard yesterday, before the arrival of the monsoon today.

My run today was just what I needed. It was a bit longer than the plan called for - 17+ miles rather than 16 - but then again, I've had an abusive relationship with my plan over the last couple of weeks. The overall pace was 8:55 per mile, with just three quick stops to pick up water bottles and take a drink and/or energy.

I started with a little over a mile on the treadmill in the house as a warmup, and then did the remaining miles around my area in Hanwell. I often do my long runs on the flat trails of downtown Fredericton, but I specifically wanted to run around home today, just for the hills. There are only a handfull of steep, short hills on this run, but most of the rest of the run contains rolling hills.

Although there was a mix of rain and showers through most of the run, I hardly noticed it. Plus, the rain gave me an excuse to run in my Asics Gel Trabuca's. These are the trail shoes I run in during winter, and I didn't have any problems with my feet during those months. Of course, I also wasn't doing as many miles, and would have frequent runs on the treadmill then also.
When my run ended, I still felt pretty good. Since it had been a while since my last long run, it restored some of my confidence, which has taken a shot in the last couple of weeks, having taken off nearly a full week of running due to my bad foot.

Speaking of the foot, it could be worse. I replaced a run on Saturday with some cross-training, to give it a bit of a break. Other than that, I stayed fairly close to what the plan called for, and ended up just shy of 37 miles for the week, rather than the planned 42-44 miles. After doing 50+ miles for most weeks of August and September, the last couple of weeks have left me feeling that I should be doing more. That won't happen over the next couple of weeks, with the marathon happening two weeks from today. The plan has me doing 32 miles next week, with one run of mile intervals at a 5k pace - fun!

Two weeks to the marathon; Faith Ann is rolling along, Mike is doing great, and I'm feeling ok. Who could ask for anything more?