Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Summer of 2012 now ... I was babbling to Faith Ann a couple of days ago about how I had just finished 60 miles on the week, and that I had run 20 of the last 21 days. She responded with "Don't complain to me when you are injured". It reminded me of the last entry in my blog, when she said something very similar. Coincidentally (or perhaps subconsciously) I have a nagging feeling in my left calf tonight, so I'm taking a day off from running. I'm not too concerned about it yet.

How has my running progressed since my last blog entry? Last year was not great in my running world. I believe I had pertussis/whooping cough in the early autumn, interrupting my plans for a good marathon. Even prior to that, my running had really not improved over the summer, for some reason. In fact, I think it regressed.

I then had a good winter of training, until a calf strain sidelined me for a few weeks. That resulted in me not doing a spring marathon. However, I did run a handful of spring races and took in the Cabot Trail Relay again.

This summer, the running has been going quite well, averaging 50+ miles per week, and the little speed I used to have has returned. I ran a new PB on a relatively tough 5k course in in early September, and I'm aiming to get PB times in the half, 10k and marathon over the next month. Hoping for a 3:3X in the PEI marathon in mid-October.

A quick photo recap of the last year follows.

A picture of me running the Hampton 5-miler in early September, 2011. I was slow - not much better than 8 minute miles. Not enough speed work? Carrying too much weight? The 20 miles I ran the day before?

The Fall Classic 10k a couple of weeks later. I started suffering with the cough the day after the 5-miler, and it really hit me during this "race". This picture captures it quite well.


Running the Mount Desert Island Marathon in October of 2011. I still wasn't feeling fell, but finished in 3:53 or so.

Here was a nice sign Faith Ann and Cam made for me during the race - quite appropriate!

I started a nice buildup through the winter, including a half marathon (not racing) at the "Not-the-Honolulu" marathon in mid-December. It was unseasonably warm - note the lack of snow.

I had a very good build up through January/February of 2012, until a cranky calf muscle bothered me throughout much of March. No spring marathon for me, but I did do several smaller races, plus the Cabot Trail Relay. I always love the Cabot Trail Relay! I ran legs #1 and #13. Here is a picture of me from leg #1.

Throughout this summer, I have been running quite consistently, getting in decent mileage with medium long runs/speed work/strides/long runs sprinkled in each week. I ran a half marathon in Saint John in mid-August and was disappointed with a 1:44:58 time, although it was quite humid and a hilly course. In looking at Mike's blog recently for his training for the PEI marathon in 2008, he also had (for him) a somewhat disappointing half in Saint John three weeks before his marathon, but it still worked out well for him at the marathon. Maybe it will for me too?

Fast forward to my 5k a couple of weeks ago, where I was pleased with a 22:51 time. I may run a 5k the week after my marathon on a flatter course - perhaps a chance to break 22 minutes?

All for now ... more to come as the marathon approaches, and I'll report on it here as well.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

I Long for the Long Run

I shared Mike's critique of my marathon training plan with my wife. Sharing similar concerns regarding the "too far/too soon" aspect, she passed on the following loving quote:

"When you get hurt with some weird injury, don't come whining to me because it's your own ridiculous fault."

So ... I'm tweaking the plan - and not just with respect to this, but a couple of other areas as well.

I did cut back slightly on the mileage this week, running 5 days rather than 6, and 44 miles rather than 48. My speed work day came pretty close to what the plan called for. I did find it difficult, and I think I would have hit it spot-on, but for a final interval+ cut short by an uncalled for trip to the nearest bathroom.

Another part of the plan that I had a concern with was the lack of true long runs, a staple of most marathon training plans. For example, here's what the training page from the Mount Desert Island marathon says about long runs:

"The most important ingredient to marathon success is the long run; it mirrors the marathon itself. "Going long" is a hallowed weekend tradition that is despised and loved, feared and revered, bragged and complained about. First-time and casual marathoners should gradually increase the length of long runs and complete at least three runs of 18 to 20 miles prior to the marathon. "

So the MDI site calls for at least 3 runs of 18-20 miles. The Pfitzinger plan I followed the last couple of years calls for five of these, and last fall in preparing for MDI, I ran six of these, including four 20-mile long runs. How many of these are in my current plan? Zero. In fact, there was only one week where the long run reaches 17 miles.

Here is what the Run S.M.A.R.T. folks said when I asked them about this:

"As for the long runs, Jack believes the risks of running longer than 2 hours and 30 minutes (regardless of pace) during a marathon build-up far outweigh the benefits. 17 miles at 9 minutes pace brings you to Jack's cap. I'm fine with you going 18 on that day and if you're feeling good at a slightly faster pace at that point in your build-up and you can hit 18 or 19 in no more than 2:40 or 2:45 then I think that's fine. But honestly, you don't need to run any longer than that. After getting through this schedule, if you pace yourself properly during the race you will be ready to reach your goal."

I do plan on running for 2:45 a few times during this training cycle, and we'll see where this takes me for mileage on those weeks.

Next week includes a couple of days with some marathon paced miles, with the rest of week filled with easy runs. Should be manageable. No real hill training yet ... more on that next time.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Jack Daniels Man

I ran the St. Andrew's Father's Day 5-miler this past Sunday, Mike's annual race. In the four weeks since the marathon, I haven't run very much, and it showed in my finishing time of the race ... not quite breaking the 8 minute/mile pace. The course isn't easy at all, but that's a weak excuse for the poor time.

Cam ran a kilometer in the kids race prior to the adults, coming in at 5:24. Here's a picture of Cam giving it the final push just before he finished! He did very well!

Another picture of Cam, relieved to be done, hanging out with me before the "grown ups" raced.

Some speedy people I know have spoken to me recently about the importance of track workouts, and how it has improved their running. With this in mind, I decided I would include regular track work in my training plan for the Mount Desert Island marathon in October.

I've read a bit about Jack Daniels and his training plans, and I knew regular sessions on the track were part of his schedules (yeah... yeah... it doesn't make him particularly unique, I know). Also, since I've followed Pfitzinger for three training cycles now, I thought I would do something a bit different just to mix it up. If nothing else, it will be interesting to see how it affects me compared to my past training.

I registered for a training plan from the Run S.M.A.R.T. Project, which uses training plans from Jack Daniels. I gave them my recent running history, how many days per week I would like to run, anticipated mileage, and marathon and intermediary race goals. Based on this information, I was provided with an 18-week plan.

The first thing I noticed about the plan was how slow the pace of the easy-paced runs were, with paces of 9:15 to 9:45 per mile. To me, that seems quite slow. However, I've thought for a while that my slow paces are too fast, when comparing to my race times, or when I measure my heart rate on these runs as a percentage of my maximum heart rate. My long runs in the past have always come close to my marathon pace. I hear others speak of tough "marathon pace" long runs, and I think to myself "What's the big deal about that? All my long runs are around marathon pace!"

I think I'll stick to the plan, pretty much as prescribed, and see how it goes. I'll post regular updates here. Here's what the people from the Run S.M.A.R.T. Project said when I asked them about the pace of my easy runs.

"The suggested easy paces are appropriate for your goal time. That is a sign you may normally be running too hard on your easy days. Remember, easy pace running is to strengthen your heart and increase cellular adaptation to help you build a nice base for more stressful training. Those paces are as fast as you need to go to reap 100% of those benefits so running any harder only puts you at higher risk of getting injured."

So tonight, on my first run of the plan, I ran seven miles at a 9:07 pace. The plan has a suggested pace between 9:15 and 9:49! I can't imagine running a 9:49 pace for seven miles. The route I ran was fairly hilly, and my average heartrate was 149, which is about 78% of my maximum heart rate. This tells me that I probably could slow it down even more.

Tomorrow ... speed work, with 13 miles in total, including 2 miles at tempo and 3 km repeats. It will be interesting to see how I make out with that. I'll report on it in my next post.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Blue Nose recap, and other stuff

A picture of me during a cold and windy 5k race last month in Lincoln

So I did run the Blue Nose marathon last weekend, finishing with a personal best time of 3:45 exactly. It was my goal time, and I was surprised and happy to hit it. I had *ok* training heading into it, roughly following the Pfitzinger 12/55 plan. This summer I'm going to take a shot at bumping up the mileage, taking on the 18 week/peak 70 miles per week plan.

My blogging has taken a back seat to updates via the dailymile website. However, while dailymile allows for the online accountability thing, the blog serves as a historical journal. Reading along with Thomas as he hit his sub-3 hour marathon this summer, and being able to review his history of past races has convinced me - at least for the time being - that I'll keep up this online diary for another spell ... at least until I reach the sub-3:40 marathon at Mount Desert Island this fall.

I should also note that in addition the new personal best time at the Blue Nose, I also bested my previous best half-marathon time by running a 1:43 in Fredericton. Next weekend, off to the Cabot Trail Relay in Cape Breton, where I'll be running leg 12.

For now, here is a brief (?) recap of my Blue Nose marathon, courtesy of my dailymile update.

Coming into this marathon, my A, B and C goals were as follows:

A) The "feel great and fall into it" goal - a 3:40
B) The realistic goal that I would be very happy with - 3:45
C) Hitting 3:50, matching my time from last fall at MDI

The weather was cool but not so cool that I was cold (yet, that came later), there was negligible wind, and I wasn't hurting, so I had no excuses not to run my best.

As is the case for many marathoners, the first half, up to about the 25k point, felt great. My pace to that point was about 5:12 per kilometer, which put me on pace for a 3:40.

However, as great as I felt, as we were about to cross into Dartmouth around the 25k point, I knew how difficult the rest of the race was going to be. The last 17k is rarely flat, and includes four larger hills. Still, I ran a relatively steady (but slower) pace. The worst hill is up Maple Street in Dartmouth, at the 37k point. It's a steady, fairly steep incline for about 500 meters. I walked twice going up this, for perhaps 15-20 seconds each time. The only other two times I walked during the race were very briefly through a couple of water stops over the last 15k. I never really felt I hit the wall, though I was five minutes slower over the second half compared to the first half. It was nice to run around the city where I spent so much time in my youth, although I don't think I pay much attention to the sites while running.

I'm happy with this, and feel I couldn't have done much better at this point. I plan to increase the mileage this summer. My goal for the fall marathon at MDI is to break 3:40, and I'm confident I'll do it.

A few other notes on the race:

The winning time was a course record at 2:28. Only two other runners of the 300 competing broke 3:00, both finishing at 2:59. However, according to the local paper, the 2nd through 4th place runners missed a turn at one point and ran an extra 4k. It's not the first time something similar to this has happened on this course.

Just to show that some people prefer a few hills, my running friend Eric from Fredericton ran a 3:26:34, two weeks after finishing with 3:27:58 on the flat Fredericton course. He also ran a 3:32 in Boston in April. Not bad for a 56-year old who only started running two years ago!

Faith Ann ran the 10k, while my father and his wife watched Cam. They didn't wait for me to finish the marathon. I took the key to the car with me on my run, and would meet them when I was done. After finishing and grabbing a bite to eat, I walked in the cold wind to the vehicle (they ran out of mylar blankets very early - all those cold 5k'ers I guess). I took out the key to the *car*, realized we had brought the *van*, and I was stuck. I walked back to the finishing area in the cold, begged someone for a cell phone, and had the rescuing/laughing party come pick me up.

Monday, January 31, 2011

My Next Marathon - Blue Nose (Halifax)

May 22nd. Another hilly route - looking forward to it!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Arizona Rock'n'Roll Marathon

I went to Phoenix last week with Cameron and Faith Ann, running the Arizona Rock’n’Roll Marathon on Sunday, January 16, 2011. I finished in 3:51:08, 29 seconds slower than MDI in October, and had fun doing it! Here is what the weather was like at the airport, hours before we finally got out of there ...

We were happy to arrive in Phoenix for weather like this ...

The bad weather at home meant that our flight was delayed by a day, and we spent an unexpected night in Detroit enroute to Arizona. That also meant that I missed a Leafs/Coyotes hockey game in Phoenix. I had a great seat for it too!

We went right to the race expo after arriving. We didn’t spend too much time there, as Cam wouldn’t have put up with it for too long. He was so anxious to get to the Lego Store! However, there were some things there to keep him entertained.

We took it easy Saturday, visiting the Arizona Science Centre (across the street from the Expo) and South Mountain Park. Sunday morning, I got to the race in plenty of time, getting psyched up by the atmosphere and inspirational signs.

Although this course is flat and fast, and the conditions were perfect, my training since the MDI marathon in October had fallen off and I expected to finish with a time similar to that one (3:50).

There were a little over 5000 people running the full marathon, and we were placed in corrals based on our expected finishing times. This seemed to work out well, as the pace at the start seemed to be a good one for me. I finished the first 5k in 27 minutes, the 10k in 54:35. I felt very good after 10k, and unintentionally did the next several miles at a pace faster than intended. I finished the half at 1:53:06. Faith Ann was tracking my progress, and at one point the website had projected me to finish at 3:44. She suspected I might be headed for a rough finish based on this pace. As it turned out, I wouldn’t keep that pace, but it didn’t end up being too bad.

For the first time ever in a race, I had to take a bathroom break during the run! I diverted to a porta-potty somewhere around mile 14. Perhaps I would have broken 3:50, if only my bladder was the size of Africa!

Around mile 16 things started to feel tough, but I kept trudging along. I ran for a while with this guy below. He’s done a few marathons like this, carrying the US flag. I looked him up later on the web, and he is quite the accomplished endurance athlete.

While the course is short on scenery, there was the occasional nice view ...

... and the course is definitely fast. The most extreme “hill” around mile 24 really wasn’t much of a hill at all. If I ever wanted to try to race for a fast time in a winter marathon, this would be the place. In reality, that’s not likely to happen, since my training tends to decline in the winter months.

Being in the Rock’n’Roll marathon series, there were bands throughout the course, but I barely noticed they were there. Things got progressively tougher over the last few miles, and I walked through a couple of the water stations. My pace didn’t drop off precipitously though. For the 42 kilometers of the race, I only had three where the pace exceeded 9:30 minutes/mile - how’s that for mixing up metric and imperial? Only one kilometre exceeded the 10 minute per mile pace (barely), and that was the one that included the bathroom break.

Some race participants did a good job of encouraging myself and others over the last couple of miles. I took the photo below as I approached the end.

As I said earlier, I was happy with the run. My training since MDI had averaged a little less than forty miles per week, with my left calf giving me issues a couple of times. Other than that pain, and a few added pounds, I stayed on track with my plan pretty well – certainly much better quality workouts than when I was training for Houston at the same time last year. Still, it included only one 20-mile run, compared to five for MDI. If I can get a 3:51 on this type of training – albeit on a fast course –it gives me confidence that I should be able to crack the 3:40 mark this fall.

It is a good marathon, although if forced to choose between this one and my other "large" winter marathon, I would probably choose Houston. Houston has a better expo, more fans, a better facility for the start/finish, and better finishing food and goodies.

One odd thing about this marathon experience revolves around my recovery. This was my flattest course of the four I have run, yet for some reason my quads are more sore than they were for any of the previous three. Running through an airport last night to catch a connecting flight (which of course was delayed anyway) was a painful experience!

My next marathon? I’m not sure. I plan to participate with the marathon training group in the local running club, but that’s really just to stay in shape. Whether it leads to a spring marathon will be determined by the quality of the training and my commitment to it between now and then. At the very least, I'm in a better spot now than this time last year. My "winter" marathon time was ten minutes faster, and I don't have any surgery coming up that will keep me off my feet. Looking forward to some winter training before the spring races begin!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Quick Update

A photo of some of the guys from the Fredericton Trail Masters Cabot Trail Relay team. We got together to run a few leisurely miles yesterday, just before the heavier snow starting falling.

My running had been coming along well recently. This week, however, wasn't up to snuff, as I missed my Tuesday and Wednesday runs, largely due to laziness. The result was a weekly total of just over only 32 miles (52k). With the marathon seven weeks from today, there should be plenty of motivation to get most of my runs in until the big day (January 16th). My 18 mile run today went well, with a comfortable pace of 8:49 minutes per mile, so my endurance doesn't seem to have taken a significant dip. Looking back at my long runs at the same time last year, they were all 20-30 seconds per mile slower, so that's encouraging as well.

In other news, I had my first ever massage of any type last week, this one of the deep tissue variety. I thought I would hate it, but it was bearable - and not intolerably painful. I have had off-and-on issues with my calves over the last few months, and I figured this treatment couldn't hurt. The jury is still out on whether it was beneficial, but I will get a follow up massage this Tuesday. That might be it for a while.

Finally, in keeping with my pattern of announcing my marathon plans months in advance, it looks like I won't be doing Quebec City next August. I do think I'll be running this half-marathon around that time. Next fall's marathon? Well, Faith Ann is planning on running two half marathons in 2011. Her spring half will be here in Fredericton, and her autumn half will be at the Maine Marathon in Portland. There is a decent chance I will run the full at the Maine Marathon at that time, but I'm not 100% sold on it yet.

A picture of Cam from earlier today, giving you an idea of the kind of stuff I was running in for my long run.