Monday, 12 May 2014

Races, races and more races

If there's anything I've learned about myself in four years of running, it's that I have to have a race booked to get out the door running at all.  Since rather unexpectedly beating my half marathon PR in Hamilton last November, Phil and I have been going nutty signing up for everything we could find.   He was already speedy fast, but the extra running I've been compelled to do have allowed me to improve in every race distance since that half.  Woot!

November 11 we ran a 5k in front of the Santa Claus Parade (inaugural year and net downhill!) taking me to a PR of 27:20.

December 26 we ran the Boxing Day 10 miler also in Hamilton.  I ran this a couple of years ago and only remember the "hill", which was actually part of the Niagara Escarpment, reminiscent of the cliffs that Wile E Coyote regularly runs off by accident.

Happily, they changed the course in 2013 and I got a big PR of 5 minutes or so at 1:41:17.

In March we ran the Around the Bay 30k and I'm still not sure why so many people are enamored by this race.  I treated it as a marathon training run and was shooting for 3:15, which I thought was realistic, but took 3:18 something.  I really need to do more hill work.  It was cool ending in the Copps Colliseum (I know it has a new name but am too lazy to look it up), but otherwise I wasn't loving it. I lost steam at about 22k -- mostly in my head since it was suddenly farther than a half -- and couldn't pick it up again.  Around 25k I had decided the May marathon wasn't going to happen and that I needed to email the race director to drop down to the half. In the finishing chute, a guy was proposing to his girlfriend, but I was so done with the race I didn't even give the scene a second look.  Hope she said yes!  Regardless, first time 30k race = PR and by the time we were back at the car, I had decided I would be okay to do the full marathon since it was a much easier course.

Famous Reaper in Around The Bay; I thought he was too far past the mega hill.
I was recovered enough by the time I saw him that I didn't believe it was the real Grim. 

Harry's Spring Run Off 8k, which didn't change the course to avoid the hills, was also a PR of about 3 minutes (49:34), but it didn't make me like the race any better.  I don't know what it is about that race, but it feels like a New Years Eve party, where people are forcing enthusiasm.

The under-an-hour 10k that I've been chasing for four years is also in the bag -- in April the Toronto Yonge Street 10k finally finally finally went my way.  With the nasty weather this winter, I got used to drinking less while running (too cold to carry the bottle) so completely ignored the water stations and came in at 56:09.  Woot!  Yesterday we repeated the course at the Sporting Life 10k with 27,000 people and I only managed 57:27; lots of dodging people the entire way and:

The Goodlife Toronto Marathon was just last weekend and we both got PRs -- mine was 15:45 minute improvement when I came in at 4:42:34.  So I'm okay with a slightly slower 10k the week after.  Phil ran with awesomeness also and got a 2 minute PR coming in at 4:06.  I still want to do a marathon under 4:30, and Phil was shooting for under 4:00.  Once I'd finished this year, we decided within 5 minutes to repeat this race in two years.  By the time we go to the car, we'd agreed on next year. May 3, 2015 here we come!

So happy, running down Yonge Street
Not so happy; running out to 35k
Yeah, baby.
We ran other races that weren't PRs, but generally I've been improving my pace, which I'm happy about.  The Chilly Half in Burlington in March was at about 2:15.  One race that didn't go well at all was the St. Patrick's Day Achilles 5k.  Our 17 and 15 year old boys had agreed to come to that one, until we woke up on race morning and it was a freakishly cold -11C/12F.  We had the cold weather gear, but they didn't, so they stayed in bed.  I wish I had too!  Something like 31 minutes.  They can't all be winners.  Still liked the chili and beer inside Steamwhistle Brewery when we finished.

We're able to go for short training runs again now that the marathon is over and it seems so much more manageable, especially with spring finally arriving.  Next up is the Streetsville Bread and Honey 15k (hoping for that last distance PR), the Runway Run 5k at the airport, and the very very very fun Pride Run 5k as a member of Team Beaverhausen at the end of June.  I'm starting to use the "Virtual Partner" on my Garmin to keep me running closer to 9 min/miles in training and will be doing hills and intervals to keep up the progress.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Winterman Half Marathon Race Report

We headed to Ottawa to run the Winterman half marathon last weekendIt starts at the Canadian War Museum and is organized into a 5.275km out and back -- four times for a half and eight times for a full.

There were PLENTY of things that I didn't like the sound of:
  • February race date during our harshest winter in a very long time;
  • Ottawa race city, which is typically colder and snowier than Toronto;
  • Out and back four times?  Are you crazy?; and
  • 8:30 start time.  In February.  In Ottawa.

And we signed up anyway because:
  • there are precious few opportunities in February to race instead of doing a lonely training long run;
  • I've long been embarrassed that I've only ever been to the capital once, and that was on business;
  • the boys were willing to come with us -- they're 17 and 15, so there won't be many more times; and
  • we were taking the VIA train, another thing I've never done.

We treated ourselves to business class on the train, which included a pre-boarding lounge with free coffee (my favourite), preferred seating and a meal.  We left Saturday morning and arrived about four hours later; not much slower than flying if you count the airport security and runway lineups.  Add in free wifi and no cell phone restrictions and I think it's my new favourite way to travel.  

We stayed about one kilometer from the Museum, so Phil went to get the race kits on foot.  Swag bags were pretty standard, and included long sleeve shirts that are unfortunately cotton, but look kinda cool.  We were set to go out for dinner and I thought it wise to check our gear to make sure we didn't forget anything.  We're not used to these destination races, and can get away with last minute organization since we're usually at home.  I was proud that I had remembered my watch, earphones, sunglasses, layers of wicking clothes, extra warm SmartWool socks, toque, neck warmer and mittens.  I had even packed spiky shoe things in case the course was snow covered.  I'm so smart.  Except I forgot my running jacket.  For a February race in Ottawa.  Awesome.

It was after 6:30pm on a Saturday and Ottawa pretty much closes when the sun goes down.  We asked at the front desk if there was a WalMart or Target nearby, hoping that those chains stayed open later everywhere.  The hotel lady wrinkled her nose as if the mere suggestion of discount shopping smelled bad and asked what we needed.  She suggested going to the Rideau Centre instead, a short walk away, and was sure it was open until 9pm.  In fact, she "checked" her handy computer to verify this.  So off we went to the mall -- discovering that it was open until 9:00, except the stores in it all closed at 7:00.  We arrived at 7:05.  Awesome.

Love you, Walmart.
The Rideau Centre is along the Canal, so we set the boys up to skate on the famous ice rink while we hightailed it by cab to Walmart.  I've never been so happy to seen an "OPEN" sign in my life.  The best option was a small man's running jacket, which left enough room for two or three layers.  24 bucks.  We also found fleece gloves/scarf/hat combo packs on sale for 5 bucks each -- too good to pass up!  Also grabbed some yogurt and fruit for breakfast and were completely relieved.

We woke up bright and early Sunday and immediately checked The Weather Network; it was -17°C.  Awesome.  We put on all the clothes we had, and I added one of those Walmart scarves on top of my neckwarmer.  And we took a cab the one kilometer to the start -- please don't judge.

We stayed inside the Museum until the start, which was nice and warm.
 It seemed like everyone else was dressed much less warmly than we were -- I guess we're the Toronto wusses.  I'm okay with that.  We sang O Canada (always makes me catch my breath) and the race started with the VERY loud and real live cannon firing at the end of a count down. 

I thought I would hate the repeated out and backs, but it wasn't so bad.  It was hilly, but at least you knew what to expect after the first lap.   It was a little tough mentally finishing the third lap and heading out for another as many were veering left to the finish, but that's distance racing for ya -- there's always the low point.  

The volunteers were amazing.  There were water/Gatorade stations at the start and turnaround point of the lap, and by the 3rd lap you felt like the people handing out drinks were family.  I chose to take Gatorade or water only at one end, so every 5k ish, as that's my plan for fueling the marathon in May. You also knew where the photographers were, so could plan your expressions.  I can't imagine doing it 8 times for a marathon, but 4 was alright.  I had the right number of layers too -- there were warm spots and cool spots, and it stayed cold but the sun was shining, so I was able to put my hood up or down and take my gloves on and off throughout.  There was, as there inevitably is, a guy running in bare legs, but his skin looked sunburnt it was so red.

Top 10 coolest medal.
I treated this race like a training run, and though I pushed myself harder than I do running solo, I wasn't expecting a PR.  Even so, it was my second fastest ever half (2:19:13), only slower than Hamilton, which has a gradual downhill to flat.   I am getting better, slowly but surely.  I came THIS close to placing in my age group too -- fourth out of eleven -- so there's a reason to return.  Phil was happy with his 1:52 finish.

You can't see it, but there were ice crystals in my hair.

I will definitely do this race again.  It was incredibly well organized and, while there weren't a huge number of supporters, the repetitive course allowed for the same few to cheer for you again and again.  It was very clear where to go, even though there were shorter turning points for a 5k and 10k.  Perhaps a bit crowded at the start with all the races going at the same time, but it stopped me from going out too quick.

Next up:  Chilly Half in two weeks, a favourite 5k for St. Patrick's Day (ish) that the boys have also signed up for, and I'm hunting down a bib for the Around the Bay 30K on March 30.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Go home, Nike. You're drunk.

"The Nike Tadasana Women's Training Capris feature sweat-wicking
 stretch fabric and a loose fitting inseam for maximum comfort and
freedom of movement during your workout".

Sunday, 29 December 2013

2014 Running Goals

Understanding this has never worked for me before, I'm setting my goals for the year, along with everyone else.

2013 turned out to be a great year for my running.  I didn't run a single time in January, then started very slowly in February with the St. Patrick's Day 5k in sight.  It was a particularly stressful start to the year in my work life, so I decided to shoot for improving at 5k races instead of adding the stress by not getting long runs done.  I ran short training runs much more frequently.

It turned out to be the best thing I could have done.  I'm still not lightning fast, and probably never will be, but I squeaked out personal records in the three out of the four race distances I ran.  I only ran one 10k at the Zoo and did better than I had at that particular race, but didn't PR.

27:20 down from 28:49 = 6.2% faster at my new favourite race (sorry, Pride Run), that runs in front of the Santa Claus Parade, complete with tens of thousands of cheering people.  I also beat that previous PR in five other 5k races this year.

10 miles
41:17 down from 46:02 = 10.9% faster at the Boxing Day 10 miler versus the summer time Acura 10 miler.

Half marathon
2:13:51 down from 2:21:10 = 5.2% faster at the Road to Hope in Hamilton compared to Scotia Bank Toronto Waterfront, but I had a very similar time in Hamilton 2 years ago.

Of course, now I have to do another marathon.  I have to.  I'll do the same one I did in 2012 -- the Goodlife Toronto Marathon -- and will train properly this time.  That means pushing myself when I didn't before, planning out race day fueling and being more consistent with hill and speed workouts. I'll still be realistic based on the above improvement times: in 2012 I finished the marathon in 4:58:20,  5% improvement is a finish time of 4:43:25 and 10% improvement is 4:28:30.  I'll reach for 10, be satisfied with 5, and devastated with less.  With work settling in to a good routine, not to mention senior students to do much of the work for the winter, I believe it can be done.  But I'm already sick of the Star Wars references to the May 4 race date, and I haven't even heard any yet.

Sixteen week training starts mid January.  Fire up the Visa and sign us up, Phil!

Otherwise, I'll be trying for PRs in the other distances, particularly that elusive 10K sub 60 minute bane of my existence.  

Phil and I have also been contemplating a destination half marathon in the fall. Any suggestions? We're thinking somewhere in Canada or the US to avoid jet lag.  I should see more of Canada (I've never been to the east coast) and there's many states I'd like to go to -- Arizona, Texas, Colorado, Louisiana (mostly because it's so fun to say Louisiana). 

Monday, 4 November 2013

Hamilton Road 2 Hope Half Marathon

That went well.  It turns out running faster more often makes you run faster.  Who knew?

The other two times I ran this race, I made the mistake of believing the downhill would coast me to a PR without really trying.  Didn't work either time...fool me once and all that.  I was ready this time.  I had put in the kilometers and had even been fairly consistent with hill and speed work. On my training runs through the last month, I tried to mimic the downhill first half/flat second half by running a loop from home to Lake Ontario and back.

What's not to like about this elevation change?

This race is particularly well organized.  Package pick-up on Friday was a breeze, with the unexpected delight of being able to choose among four different colours of race shirts. I don't remember ever having a choice before, much less that many options.  The busing to the start line from the parking was painless, and we were able to wait in the toasty warm community centre at the start line.  It was even held on the weekend that daylight savings time ended, giving us an extra hour to sleep.

The line-up for the women's washroom was ridiculously long, but aren't they always?  The choice was to wait inside and potentially not get to the front in time for the race or wait outside in -1C for a porta potty.  I chose the former and was just in under the wire!  Whew.

The race is small -- 1750 in the half, 1005 of them women -- and the marathoners went off 15 minutes prior, so the field spread out quite quickly and didn't feel so crowded.  The volunteers were extremely friendly and helpful.  Again this year the local high schools came out to manage the water stations, which were plentiful, and showed great support.

And I ran it well, not going nutty at the beginning and keeping my effort consistent on the downhll.  I prepared myself for the second half and vowed to run the whole thing.  As it was fairly chilly, I didn't feel the need to stop for water or Honey Maxx until about 12k in, but I did walk long enough to drink at the last three stops.  The low point came at about 15k, when the course goes along the lakefront trail away from the finish line.  It felt like it was going on forever and I knew I'd have to turn around and run it again.  I fought through the overwhelming desire to walk and pushed through.  With about 2k left to go, the marathon winner passed me and I couldn't keep up with him for more than one stride. Crazy. Motivating.

Instead of foil wraps, they gave out these
funky disposable jackets.  Too cool.
I came in with a huge PR -- 7:21 faster in fact -- at 2:13:49.  Still far from getting under 2 hours, which I thought would happen so much sooner when I started running, but that much closer.  Woot!

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

So much for that.

My plan was to devote the year to faster, shorter races, since I was having trouble finding big enough chunks of time to devote to half or full marathon training.  Guess what?  Short race training gets boring quicker.

We ran Erica's Wish in Mississauga August 11 for the third time and there were indeed cupcakes, but I went for the bag of chips instead.  Yum.  Came in at 28:42.  Not a PR.  I'm blaming the loose gravel portion for slowing me down.

September was busy.  The Energizer Night Race in Sunnybrook Park is a favourite.  Registering comes with a headlamp. Phil did the 10k but I did the 5k.  My Garmin conked out two minutes before the start of the race, so I had to run this one naked, which was a first.  I had no clue how far I was unless I happened to see the marker.  It's similar to how I drive now with GPS -- doggedly following instructions and having no knowledge about where I am or how to get home from an unfamiliar area.  Brainless!  That's me.  So I concentrated on keeping my breathing steady instead of counting down the meters like I usually do.  It also helped that I was right near an irritating couple who dressed as bride and groom since it was their 14th wedding anniversary.  I think they told every single runner in the race and photobombed every picture they could.  But what was really annoying is that they beat me, though I came in at 28:04 trying to catch them.  Still not a PR, but it was only last year I was happy to just be under 30:00.

Some people chose to run with fluorescent tube lights instead.
The very next morning, we ran the B&O Yorkville 5k.  This had been my PR before this year's awesome Pride Run and, as we had so many Team Beaverhausen folks running, I thought I might improve that, but was about 13 seconds shy coming in at 27:47.  Being in Yorkville, this run provides very well for its racers -- a flat downtown course, chi chi snacks with espresso post race and indoor Hazelton Lanes washrooms or porta potties, your choice.  An area real estate agent even picked up the tab for pictures so they were free!  I like the way rich people think.  It starts and ends right in front of a huge Nike store, and every year I'm astounded that they're not open for business during the race.

September 21 we did the Oasis Zoo Run.  I did the 10k with Phil and some friends of ours who are new to racing.  Poured rain the whole time and I'm convinced they added some hills at the end.  Again this race, I somehow missed seeing most of the animals, except a large group of flamingos (flamingoes? flaminga? flamingi?)  I had hoped to finally break the hour mark, but no such luck.  Came in at 1:02:06, a full 5 minutes faster than last time I ran it three or four years ago. So there's that.

Oh, and guess who won?

'Nuff said.
So to squash the boredom a little, I signed up for the Road to Hope half marathon in Hamilton coming up on Sunday.  I've run this one twice before, but had never really prepared for it.  It's actually a good race, not too crowded and with a large downhill portion.  My long runs have been going well, so I'm optimistic I'll get a PR, barring catastrophe. Fingers crossed!

Monday, 15 July 2013

The Silver Lining to Getting Old

Phil, Tim and I ran the Dawn at the Don 5k in Sunnybrook Park yesterday.  It wasn't sizzling hot at the 8:00am start, but the sun was very strong and I couldn't keep the decent pace I started with.  No PR for me, but I did have a first -- I placed!  Woot!  3rd in my age group.  Woot!  And Phil won his category by a very wide margin.

Gotta like getting old and running small races.  I'd do this one again too.  It's the only time I've run this venue that the narrow paths weren't horribly overcrowded.   They had an 8k option too, but 5k was plenty.

Next stop is Erica's Wish in Mississauga in August.  We were planning to run the Toronto International 10 miler/5k (formerly the Acura), but it was cancelled this year due to construction.  I've done Erica's Wish twice and seem to remember a cupcake table...