I was feeling quite apprehensive about pulling off this long run due to some incredibly humid weather earlier this week, mileage and quality increases and weight work yesterday. I had missed the last three Saturdays with my regular group and hoped for their company however I wanted to optimize the conditions for making it through at least 15 miles.
Those Saturday Guys
One member of the Saturday group is heading off to France for a year and has rented his home to a runner from Holland. So the run today was both a farewell and a welcome. In the flurry of emails to plan this run, I tried to suggest that the ideal plan would be to run down to the lake. Admittedly, the plan was a bit complicated and involved car transport for three of the runners but my survival instincts begged for the following; 1) minimal exposure to vehicular traffic 2) the cooling breezes of Lake Ontario 3) a flat route. I geared up mentally to run to our rendezvous point, meet the new guy, say goodbye to “R” then head off on my lonesome down to the lake.
On arriving at our meeting spot I was reminded that the Caribana parade which takes place by the lakeshore is today. This is one of two weekends of the year when running by the lake is to be avoided, the other is the weekend of the Molson Indy. Thankfully, the humidity had lifted this morning and running uptown was not too bad.
I ran with the group for about 9 miles and then reversed directions on the beltline to run solo in order to ensure I’d hit my mileage target. I ran over 16 miles at a brisker- than-usual pace on a hillier than planned for route. The pace was faster than our usual due to the presence of an ailing 2:35 marathoner. With 4 miles to go I sent an email to my husband to order my post-long-run latte.
Bridge at Glen Cedar Road - Four miles to go, time to order that latte
Tomorrow, I’ll run 5 miles to get to my 55 mile target for this week. I’m feeling pretty good about my training this past month and encouraged by the ease of the run today. I feel fine!
Here is the draft of my training plan for the NYC Marathon, committed to paper while flying to Edmonton the other week. I’ve since transferred the plan to the Excel spreadsheet that I’ve been using as my training log for over a decade.
Training Plan for NYC Marathon
For all the gadgets in the world, I’ve found that sometimes there is nothing that beats pen and paper for keeping organized. I’m at my best at Getting Things Done GTD® à la Dave Allen when I have notepads strategically located around the house, so as to easily download from my mind, all the things that need doing. CLICK HERE for my earlier post about Dave Allen.
You’ll see in my plan that I’m hoping to do 80 & 85 miles weeks at the peak of my training. Pulling that off will depend on whether I can both increase the quality of my runs and increase mileage concurrently. I used to be able to do this easily but with a lapse of a few years from hard training and age, we will have to see.
The “E” stands for Easy Week and as a concession to the aforementioned, I will experiment with two weeks hard, one week easy. Previously, I would usually do three weeks hard and one week easy. “R” stands for race, the first being the Scotiabank Half-Marathon and then of course NYC.
I hit my target of 50 miles last week and this week got off to a good start with a workout that will segue into a weekly tempo run. I ran a 4 mile warm-up outdoors and then hit the treadmill for 2 X 10 minutes of marathon-pace and tempo-pace running for a total of 8 miles.
Not all the treadmills at my gym are equipped to read out heart rate data and while fidgeting with the controls of one treadmill, I had to input my age. By mistake I entered 50 and then my target heart rate which was 145, my marathon-pace heart rate.
Immediately I received in three warnings in quick succession that this was 85% of my maximum heart rate and did I realize the risk involved. These warnings reminded me of how off-the-mark heart rate zone charts can be. Normal resting heart rates for the general population differ by up to 20 beats. Age maximums vary even more depending on fitness level. If I had entered 172, which would be my target were I planning to run intervals, along with my correct age of 55 perhaps the treadmill would have gone on red alert and shut down.
My best advice to those seeking to improve their marathon times is get a lactate threshold test done. This will insure that you are doing those important tempo runs at the just the right effort level. Runner know thyself.
While sipping my coffee just after 4 a.m. yesterday morning, I wondered if the only smart choice for a 15 mile run was on the treadmill. Nonetheless, I decided to stick to my plan and left home at 5:47 a.m. just 2 minutes behind schedule. The temperature was 27C with 79% humidity, said to to feel like 38C on a day being billed as one of the hottest of the decades. As the day evolved the same-day temperature record was broken with a 37.5C and notably for me, with my early start, the all-time highest, minimum temperature record of 27C was broken at 6 a.m.
Lake Ontario 6:00 a.m. July 21, 2011 - A record minimum temperature at 6:00 a.m.
How did it feel to run in these conditions? Thanks to a 20K breeze off the cooling waters of Lake Ontario it was not too bad. I ran at a very slow pace but since most of my run was along the lake shore, with sun on the horizon and not overhead, I survived quite nicely. For the first time since my December marathon I wore my most pared down running gear, the type of outfit that my son once referred to as my bathing suit. This added to my comfort level.
Cooling breezes off the lake on Humber River spit at mile 9 of 15.
I’ve never seen so many shirtless men of all ages, walking, cycling and running. This was not a day to be self-conscious and I said to myself, “Good for you!” when spotting a senior man going topless. On my part, I admit to being grateful that I resumed my planking routine given that I was exposing my belly for the first time in a while. A notable sighting was group of 25-30 twenty-something rowers with their bare backs to the lake, listening attentively to a coach. I think we would be happy to have this group holding the fort.
I received a couple of comments commiserating about hot weather running, a blogger from Florida and one from Chicago. This led me to check out temperatures at 6 a.m. in these cities.
I think Miami were the worst off with not a breeze to be found. The two hottest races of my life have taken place in Chicago. The windy city, in my experience is even muggier than Toronto. I ran the Chicago Distance Classic 20K more than a decade ago and then a 5K. That 5K was brutally hot. I recall feeling as that the last kilometer was one of the longest ever, more grueling than the last kilometer of a marathon.
In 2006 I ran Chicago on a nice cool day and placed first in my age category of 50-54 with a 3:13. My participation was strategic in that it was the only time in recent memory that the race was held in the third week of October, a couple of weeks later than usual. Early October in Chicago involves the risk of running a marathon in what for me are less than ideal conditions. The famous scorching conditions of the following year bore out my fears with headlines like 2007 Chicago Marathon: One Dead, Hundreds Treated, What Went Wrong?
At the end of the hottest July 21st ever, I felt great for sticking to my program of running 15 miles as I head towards a 50 mile week. Yes, consistency may seem like a mundane concept but for the marathoner, achieving it involves a few battles with the elements.
For various reasons, tomorrow is the day that I must do my long run. A day that is forecast to be one of the hottest days of the decade. The predicted high is 38C and it will feel like 48C. The sun will rise around 5:55 a.m. and I plan to be out the door earlier than that timing my run so I can see the sunrise on Lake Ontario. I had hoped to do 15 miles but I think I will have to see how it goes and moderate my ambitions. That is Plan A. Plan B is to head to the gym and jump on a treadmill if the heat is hideous although today, there was about 15 degrees difference between the high and the low temperature. I’m hopeful . . . sigh.
Lake Ontario, March 14, 2011
I’m working a half-day tomorrow due to some evening and weekend work and I plan to take a nap before heading to work. Running in heat is most exhausting and I also have to stay awake for a fairly demanding evening, three hours of non-stop Adobe Illustrator instruction.
Hot as it is, I maintain that it is not quite as bad as some of those high humidity days with lower temperatures. I had considered running at the U of T Athletic Centre but discovered that it is closed for renovations.
My mileage goal for the week which starts on Mondays is 50. So far I’ve run, 8, 4 and 6. Even though I’m about 16 weeks out from the NYC marathon, this will be one of the more challenging training weeks.
I shouldn’t have trouble waking up early as I woke today at 2:45 a.m. Can’t figure that one out having come home from Alberta but it works well with my running plan. I’ll be heading to bed shortly i.e. 7:30’ish and aiming to rise around 4 a.m. so I have a bit of time to relax before my run. I guess my training tip for hot weather running is get out the door as early as possible.
My return flight from Edmonton was delayed and touched down in Toronto at midnight. This did not bode well for an early morning run today particularly since the weather in Edmonton over the last four days was far cooler, very pleasant actually. The only down side was that the headlines of the Edmonton daily papers were screaming the news that it was the worst summer ever for mosquitoes.
Land of the silver birch, home of mosquitoes
There is a scenic river path in St. Albert, a suburb of Edmonton which runs alongside the Sturgeon river as it peters out. The water is still, very still. At the best of times you don’t run this route without insect repellent and my first instinct was to skip the river path completely. However, the thought of running along roads connecting one gigantic sub-division after another with a higher speed limit than similar Toronto roads, did not appeal either so I decided to check out the river path and “bail” if necessary.
The St. Albert, AB river path
Happily it was not too bad, except one section where I had to run with both hands leading the way with a propeller motion. On the way back, I did some sections of fast running to coincide with the most bug-ridden sections. Despite the headlines, this summer did not seem worse than others. The only thing I noticed was the infiltration of mosquitoes into indoor spaces. For example, a mosquito landed on the platform of the weight machine while I was doing leg presses at the gym.
Marie Anne Gaboury (geni.com)
This mosquito business brought to mind the adventures of Louis Riel’s grandmother Marie-Anne Gaboury who was the first woman of European descent to travel and settle in what we now call Alberta. The excellent biography of Louis Riel, Riel, A Life of Revolution, written by Maggie Siggons, mentions her travails while roughing it in the early 1800’s in western Canada, bug bites and all. Edmonton is a land of extremes with the snowiest winter in years, chronicled in my post about that trip: Winter Wonderland and now a summer pestilence.
I woke to my alarm this morning after four hours sleep and was out the door soon after, for a four miler. My legs were heavy from running with the mosquitoes but there was a bit of a breeze which took the edge off the heat. I felt like a trooper, battling heat and jet lag, admittedly a fraction of the gumption that Mary Anne Gaboury would have needed in her cross-Canada travels on foot, canoe and horseback but hey, I’m still proud of me!
As planned, I got in 45 miles this week. I was also more conscious of eating moderately as opposed to eating as much and whatever I want. One example is a variation on the usual breakfast I order when my father-in-law takes us out to his favourite breakfast spot. Normally, I relish one of Ricky’s famous big breakfasts, the Perogy and Egg Platter which includes; 3 eggs, 7 perogies with grilled onions, your choice of bavarian, chorizo or calabrese sausage and toast.
To moderate this indulgence I convinced my husband to share this big breakfast with me along with a waffle breakfast. I call it the breakfast buffet. In case you were wondering, we split the 7th perogy in half.
Big breakfast, split two ways
Waffles, breakfast dessert for two
Today I’m baking a pie for my father-in-law. I love the way he hints that it would be nice if I baked a pie. Actually, the beauty of it is that he says, “Are you going to bake a pie?” and then laughs and says he is just kidding me. I can’t really tell if he is teasing me or hinting but I always commit to baking a pie, in this case a lemon meringue pie. I am quite vain about my pie making prowess so it doesn’t take much to get me going. This is the third pie I’ve baked in the past month.
I have an internal rating system for each effort. I baked a blueberry pie for a BBQ for workmates which was a disappointing *C*, about the lowest score I have given myself. Of course, I don’t mention the rating system to the eaters as I know any home baking is usually appreciated and most often better than anything store bought. I’m trying to get over making excuses and being too hard on myself for what I cook or bake for others. As for the moderation, I never say no to my own baking, after all the joy of running is connected to the joy of baking but I will stick to one serving.
I baked a lemon meringue pie for a departing work colleague which turned out very well, an *A* effort. What made it fall short of an A+? That would be the aesthetics. It looked fine and the crust was nicely browned but the edging was very basic with no fancy leaf patterns or other embellishments I sometimes create.
My father-in-law has good reason to remember me for my pies. For my in-laws 50th Anniversary I baked nine pies in one day. We had a very big crowd at a brother-in-law’s cottage which was one part of an all-weekend celebration. I was very touched by my father-in-law’s public appreciation of my efforts which was really the least I could do. I baked apple pie, blueberry pie, peach pie and rhubarb-raspberry pie. Other pies in my repertoire include my famous sweet potato pie flavoured with maple syrup and pecan pie drizzled with chocolate. Pies I aspire to make are banana cream pie, coconut cream pie and cherry pie.
Today's lemon meringue pie gets a B+
With increased mileage, I find myself looking forward to baking a little more. Bring on the pies . . . I mean miles.
Yesterday I enjoyed a longish, leisurely 14.5 mile run on a favourite route. I don’t often run it however as the group I usually connect are oriented to a different part of the city. All the photos from my run were taken with my Blackberry.
Humber river bridge near Palace Pier
Running west along the lakeshore, past the Boulevard Club, Marilyn Bell Park, the Argonaut Rowing Club and along the Sunnyside beach boardwalk over the Palace Pier bridge and through what I refer to as the Humber river spit.
Favourite view of Lake Ontario
When I get to this spit, I go clockwise once and then counter clockwise for a scenic two-mile section. On the southern shore there comes a point at which you cannot see a single building. I love that!
Favourite view of Toronto skyline
Regular enjoyment of the most scenic parts of urban Toronto is one of the pleasures of running. All the better when done in the early morning. The final five miles loop back through the Humber River butterfly garden and through the southeast corner of High Park. It always feels much easier than any route that goes north as it is fairly flat.
View at my Humber spit turnaround point
While crossing the Humber River bridge at Palace Pier the image of marathoners crossing the Verrazano bridge during the NYC marathon flashed through my mind. I felt a surge of adrenalin. Yes, I am training for the NYC marathon.
Later in the day I received an email from the NYC marathon telling me that the deadline for choosing transportation to the start line is July31st. Yikes . . . such is the way when you run the mother of mega-city-marathons and I’m already too late for the bus option which loads a block away from my hotel. So I chose to travel to the start on the 6:15 a.m. Staten Island ferry, followed by a bus to the start. Marathon morning anxiety begins to kick in and I ask myself, though I feel confident I know the answer, is this marathon worth the logistical hassles?
For past marathons and Around the Bay 30K I have printed out tiled route maps as part of my visualization process. I think its time to print out the large map of the NYC course to be hung in a prominent location. Yesterday I jotted down a 17 week training plan. The peak training weeks will be the last week of September and the first week of October. If all goes well, I hope to hit 80 miles or more for those weeks.
A few years ago I would have aspired to place in the top three for my age category of 55-59 however, I’ve had a hard time keeping focused on intensifying my training lately and I think my goal will be to better my 3:42 time at the Sacramento Marathon. This time was run on a net downhill course and New York is not a fast course so, that in itself will be a challenge.
But I’m feeling fitter with consistent mileage since our vacation and last week I started weight training again, and it feels fantastic. I’ve done upper body weights for most of the past 30 years and lower body weights for the past decade. My recent lapse of a couple of months from this routine was unusual. Partly to blame was a vague plan of replacing some of the weight work with plyometrics and circuit training, a plan which never took shape.
I’ve done four sessions of the anatomical adaptation phase for weight training as described in my post: Weight Training, Love It or Lose It and I’m looking forward to the maximum strength phase when I get to bulk up a bit. The goal of the lower body weight training is to maximize the the musculoskeletal system in preparation for the heavy mileage that will come later on. While I won’t be trying to log the 100 mile weeks I once did, the time has come come to run, run, run as much as I can!
Recently, I was reminded of the virtues of simplicity while weight training at the local gym. A group of women and one man were involved in what appeared to be resistance training on a small 15- laps-to-the-mile track that circles the weight training area. Some were hunched forward pushing 25 pound circular barbell weights, made slide-able by a towel underneath in an inverted “V” posture that seemed to lend itself to back strain. Another participant was pulling a couple of these same weights with a makeshift rope and belt combination attached to her waist. My impression was that this complicated endeavor had something to do with improving leg strength.
My three year old niece in the 20 meter dash for toddlers
While trying to figure out what they might be trying to accomplish, Ed Whitlock’s deceptively simple words popped into my head. “Run as much as you can!” is was what he told me when I asked him for advice. And then another thought, variety for its own sake, is the mother of ridiculous inventions. One place where odd physical challenges are at home is the community picnic, summer camp or team building activities. During this busy summer we’ve had our share of those, along with the hilarity and laughter while taking part.
At the Toronto Japanese Community Picnic, despite my protests, I found myself in a three-legged race with a brother whose strategy was to go out hard and if we get in a groove well great and if not . . . Well, you get violently pulled to the ground by your out-of-synch bound legs, experience near concussion and scrape your face as I did and still come up laughing. Of course this was recorded by numerous family members on video, footage I’ve yet to see.
A traditional competitve event at the picnic
My husband and I were the winners of the egg-on-your face award during the egg toss competition. Couples toss an egg back and forth, at increasing distance until disqualified by a broken egg or a grassy landing. My husband got egged by the splatter from the couple next to him and I got splattered by his inaccurate toss, causing great laughter. I have fond memories of summer picnics and park track and field days as they were the scene of my earliest running victories. My memory is that my skinny self never went down to defeat in the short dashes we took part in as kids.
My husband and I were at a camp in the Muskokas this weekend and took part in various team challenges which included a relay race where you had to spin around five times at the turnaround point, causing utter disorientation on the homestretch, a tug-of-war and wild multi-age soccer and volleyball games. My two camp mornings started with a multi-age run, as all were invited to join me on my laps of the dirt track surrounding the playing field. I ran 5 miles the first morning and 6 miles the next morning with companions dropping in and out. The first part of my run involved going round to each cabin and bunkhouse to do wake-up calls at 7:15 a.m. Never did my morning run feel quite so useful.
Our team wins the tug-o-war
The other team
But going back to Ed’s advice, he’s telling us to RUN not cross-train or push weights around on a track but run. His regime of 2-3 hours a day of running gives testimony to the amazing capacity of the aerobic system to improveà la Arthur Lydiard. If injuries limit how much you can run, that is the time to look for strength and flexibility training to increase your capacity to run. In addition, “as much as YOU can” points to the wisdom of Matt Fitzgerald, author of Mind, Body, Running who advises that to improve as a runner the role of all the other stuff should be to strengthen your vulnerable spots, those the keep you from running “as much as you can”.
Apart from taking up an inordinate amount of space on a track meant for running or walking, the complicated weight pulling and pushing activity seems wildly off the mark in anyone’s total fitness package. Grandmaster Ed’s advice points us all in the direction of better running but also vitality and quality of life. Advice well demonstrated by the natural instincts of toddlers as they enjoy their first years on their feet.
Writing about my husband’s past running accomplishments in my last blog reminded me of some of the changes that have occurred over those years.
Looking smug at the start of Ottawa Marathon,1982
Conventional advice for winter running was to wear woolen socks to keep hands warm. Who knew that you might dedicate a pair of regular mitts or gloves to exercise, let alone spend money to buy special ones to run in.
Runners used string to measure routes on paper maps. The really high-tech folk, of whom I knew only two, bought special map measuring wheels. My upgrade was to use candle wicking which had wire inside and improved accuracy while measuring around a bend.
Not all results were made public for the Boston Marathon. Not only were the qualifying times more difficult (sub- 3hours for open men) but you only got your name in the official program if you were 3:15 or faster, whether male or female.
There was no such thing as a personal music device. I owned the first Sony Walkman, introduced in 1981. The prototype was a behemoth and to run with it involved a complicated system of belts and strapping which felt like being wrapped in a very wide tensor bandage.
There was no affordable stopwatch available until 1974 when Casio produced the first, priced at $150. A bargain compared to the $2100 Pulsar by Hamilton a few years earlier.
Instead of chip-timing, the popsicle-stick-timing system was commonly used and believe it or not, fairly effective.
There was no Olympic marathon for women. The first Olympic marathon for women took place in 1984, three years after I had run my first marathon at age 26. Joan Benoit stepped into the record books with her historic victory.
It might read “I ran a 2:36 marathon”. I find his time impressive considering that while in his first year of university the three sports he chose for his mandatory physical education credit were fencing, bowling and swimming. His discovery of long-distance running shortly after, was his first real foray into jockdom, if you can call it that.
Finish Line Proof, Vancouver Marathon 1982
He ran his first marathon, the Ottawa marathon in 1977 in a time of 3:13. His second was the Toronto marathon later that year where he qualified for Boston with a sub-three-hour effort, easily going under the qualifying mark of 3 hours. At Boston on a very rainy day he ran 2:47 another P.B. despite making a pit stop in a restaurant where he ended up using the women’s washroom. Porta potties were not as plentiful back in the day. His fourth consecutive P.B. was posted at a small marathon in England called the Milton Keynes marathon. After that he took quite a few runs at going under 2:40 and then finally ran a 2:36 at Detroit his all-time P.B.
Racing indoors at Hart House, U of T in the early eighties
Injuries, including knee problems, and fatherhood intervened and since then he has only run one marathon. That was the Columbus marathon in 2000 to celebrate his 50th birthday in what for him was a hugely disappointing time of 3:14:03. I ran that same marathon and finished in 3:15:22. It is a part of family lore that had the race been 800 meters longer, I would have passed him. He was in fact, fitter than I was but went out too fast with a 1:30 half-marathon split and a very painful and plodding 1:44 second half. Had he paced himself more wisely, I think he would have gone under 3:10.
So that was yesteryear. Yesterday my husband ran around Queen’s Park circle, a popular downtown running loop in Toronto and spotted a crew from the local news station. He made a detour, worried that his knee doctor might spot him on TV, blatantly disobeying his orders to avoid any vigourous activity. A blog or two ago, I inadvertently offended my husband by referring to the current state of his running as meager. When he mentioned this to his boss, a long-time and often-injured runner himself, his boss laughed in commiseration. Well, at least my unintended insult had the positive effect of a lightening the workday with a laugh.
Running together since 1985 (Yukon river run, June 2011)
As for lightening up, that is our current mantra as we are hoping and praying that physics will be on our side and a weight loss of 7-10 pounds might be all that is needed to put his knee on the right track.
Incidentally, the 5 X 7 proof above was mailed to every finisher by Marathon Fotos, rubber-stamped lightly with the words, “PROOF ONLY Property of Marathon Fotos”. Things change.