Mind, Motion & Matter

Running, Essentially . . .


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The Year of Training Differently

On January 2nd of this year I flew to Boston with my husband for the American Economic Association conference. It was my 7th time in Boston and the very first time I’ve been there with no marathon to run. Thus began my year of training differently.

I’ve run the Boston Marathon in 1998, 2000, 2007, 2008, 2013 & 2014  but after four years of declining performance, I’m moving on.

Boston Marathon 2007

Boston Marathon 2007

I started my fifth decade with a 3:10:09 run in Detroit, an Ontario 50-54 age-group best which held for 6 years. Then a Canadian 30K record at the Around the Bay Road Races. My run at Boston in 2007 at the age of 51 was a peak experience as a competitive masters runner. From the threat of the first-time cancellation of the Boston Marathon, due to a very nasty nor’easter, I placed 3rd in the 50-59 age-category. But from there the decline in my marathon performance has been dramatic. With my 6th decade on the horizon and a marathon time almost 1 hour slower (as shown on the table below) than 10 years prior, it was time to take stock.

There is more to the decline than relative performance loss due to age. In 2014, I ranked 193rd in my age-group and since 2007 the age-group has been split, 50-54, 55-59. I did take three years off from serious training, but I think there is more to this decline than time off or the aging process. I give credence to one theory that a runner has only so many marathons in their legs. Why that could be, I’m not sure but I’ve been doing some research and there are theories that resonate – including changes at the cellular level in high-mileage runners. From my mid-fifties my body no longer responded positively to long-distance training stress. This article on the aging athletes and “The Law of Aggregate Miles”  may be close to the mark.

The silver lining is that in Toronto we have an excellent masters track club, the UTTC Masters Track Club whose coaches Paul Osland and Mike Sherar are turning marathon runners into track runners. I’ve been a member for a few years but have been see-sawing between track and marathon training. Going forward, I’m committed to a focus on track training.

While training for marathons I was aware that aerobic conditioning slows the aging process somewhat while more intense training, over threshold is said to delay the aging process twice as much as aerobic training. So, a focus on intensity and the better conditioning value of faster running is not unwelcome and makes a lot of sense for the masters athlete.

My track-only campaign got off to a rocky start last fall with an ankle sprain from which the by-product was plantar faciitis. This was my first injury since 1987. The plantar faciitis lingered through the fall, winter and spring. But, I was able to run some decent track times on 12-15 miles a week. This was a huge surprise to a one-time 80-100 mile a week marathon runner. But mixed into those 12-15 miles were mini-speed workouts with a 10 minute warm-up and cool-down on the bike.

Ontario Masters Championships, Brampton 2015

Developing that track kick at 1500 meters. Photos courtesy Doug Smith

Finally, I feel on solid ground and have been able to build my mileage to 33 miles with the beginnings of an increased volume of quality running. One reason why I ran so many miles as a marathon runner was I felt that I had more speed than endurance. Others I’m sure, were able to run faster marathons with less mileage. Now, that I’ve set aside leg deadening mileage, I’m hoping for some good results on the track.

I give myself a mental boost by harkening back to my adolescent years where I was once entered in a track meet as a high jumper and jumped close to a national level performance with no coaching and the antiquated scissor kick. Yes, I do have some fast twitch fibers.

While athletic opportunities for women of my age-cohort were limited through our formative and university years, I cannot complain about the opportunities for me as a Masters athlete. UTTC Masters forms the biggest group within the Canadian team now competing at the World Masters Athletics Championships in Lyon, France. Twenty-five of our team members are taking part, including our world-class coaches and world-class masters trackster, Annie Bunting. Annie has won her age-group at the Fifth Avenue Mile. The club gets to work out on the amazing new University of Toronto, Varsity Track snd has twice-weekly times reserved for us on the indoor track at the Athletic Centre as well.

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Annie Bunting wins her age-group with her trademark balletic form.

The vision for the Masters Track team came from Carl Georgevski, Head Coach of the U of T Varsity Team who says, “Starting the Masters group has been one of the best desisions I have made. I simply love this group of highly motivated and passionate indiduals around me and my team.” The original U of T Masters was coached by former elite steeplechaser Zeba Crook, now professor at Carleton University.

But first stop on the track training agenda is some strength training, AKA cross-country season. The Ontario Masters Track and Field Association has a great series which begins on September 27th with the Taylor Creek Park 5K. And speaking of that, if you have ever thought about joining a team, X-C season is the most fun time to join. Whatever your abilities or experience, you will love being a part of this hard-core running experience. Ultimately, camraderie is the biggest part of being on the UTTC cross-country team. Perhaps you too might want to train a bit differently this fall and will join me on the track or trails very soon!

Learn more about UTTC Masters. 

YEAR MARATHON TIME AGE AGE GRADED SCORE EQUIVALENT OPEN TIME
2005 Detroit 3:10:09 50 84.58% 2:40:06
2006 Mississauga 3:12:53 50 84.22% 2:40:48
2006 Chicago 3:13:53 51 84.04% 2:41:08
2007 Boston 3:17:54 51 82.96% 2:43:13
2008 Boston 3:22:14 52 82.27% 2:44:36
2010 Sacramento (CIM) 3:42:27 55 77.49% 2:54:45
2011 New York 3:50:21 56 75.70% 2:58:53
2012 Toronto 3:55:41 56 76.67% 2:56:38
2013 Boston 3:58:38 57 74.73% 3:01:13
2014 Boston 4:05:40 58 73.65% 3:03:53

My all-time PB of 3:07:02 was run at age 47 at the Ottawa Marathon


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A Canadian reviews America’s 10 Best Cities for Runners

Running in Washington D.C.

It’s all about the sights on the National Mall in Washington D.C.

While visiting Austin, Texas in January I happened upon a Forbes Magazine article listing the top ten cities for running in the U.S.  I was surprised to see that I had run in 9 of the cities on the list. As the ten cities were not ranked, I’ve listed them in alphabetical order.

  1. Atlanta
  2. Austin
  3. Boston
  4. Boulder*
  5. Chicago
  6. Minneapolis
  7. New York
  8. Portland
  9. San Francisco
  10. Washington

*Boulder, Colorado is the only city I have not run in (or visited). However, having run in Santa Fe which is 7,199 feet above sea level, when I had a slight cold, which exploded into a very painful chest cold after a lung-searing run at that altitude I have little desire to run in Boulder which has a slightly lower altitude. I’m taking the liberty of substituting Sacramento, California for Boulder on my re-ordered ranked list below.

Austin-Running

Running through the center of Austin, Texas on a Ladybird Lake trail.

  1. Austin
  2. Portland
  3. Washington
  4. Boston **1998, 2000. 2007, 2008, 2013, 2014
  5. Chicago *2006
  6. San Francisco
  7. Sacramento *2007
  8. New York *2009
  9. Minneapolis
  10. Atlanta

* *Years that I have run a marathon in a city

Austin, Texas

It was tough to decide between Austin and Portland but Austin won out because of its dirt trails with overhanging trees which line Ladybird Lake. Portland’s prized bike-running path, the Springwater Corridor is mostly paved and does not have much shade.

Portland, Oregon

One feature of running in Portland is the ease of bike rental on the river trail. This is a great way to have a non-running friend or spouse join you for your run.

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Portland Rail Trail, The Springwater Corridor

Washington D.C.

Running is the best way to see some of the sights like the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorial. Another bonus is the number of clean public restrooms around the public parks and monuments.

Boston

Boston is well, Boston, but apart from the marathon, a run along the banks of the Charles river on the Cambridge side while rowers pass by makes for a storybook setting.

Sacramento

Love the slightly downhill course of the California International Marathon in Sacramento. There is also a long-standing distance race in November which serves as a tune-up for the marathon. The Clarksburg County Run used to be 30K but is now a 20 miler with a 5K, 10K and half-marathon option. Proximity to San Francisco, a 2 hour drive, is another plus.

San Francisco

Running along the waterfront route from Market street over the Fisherman’s Wharf is one way to avoid hills in San Francisco. Love the idea of their women’s only marathon but not on the hills of San Francisco.

Chicago

Runs along the lake are pleasant but summer races in Chicago can be stinking hot. The Chicago marathon course is my favourite. I ran it once when it took place on the third, rather than the traditional 1st weekend in October.

New York

New York is near the bottom of my list as I’m personally inclined towards the urban outdoor experience of west coast cities like Portland and Seattle. But I do love the shorter races in Central park organized by the New York City Road Runners.

Minneapolis

I’ve been to Minneapolis twice. Once for a convention and the last time a quick overnight stay to visit the World’s Biggest Mall a.k.a. “hell on earth” according to my husband. Nothing memorable to report other than feeling safer than I did in Atlanta and I’m sure summer runs in Minnesota are cooler than Atlanta as well.

Atlanta

I ran in Atlanta nearly 25 years ago while attending a convention. I think I was the only runner in the group of 2000 attendees. It was one of the muggiest runs of my life. My friends worried for my safety and I have to confess, I did not feel particularly safe there even though I stuck to the tourist zones.

I was going to say this post was part one of a series, with subsequent posts providing more detail on running in these cities. However given my poor record of following up with promised part twos, I’ll leave it at this and invite your comments or recommendations.

Happy vacation running!

Lynn


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Packing my bag for the Boston Marathon | Part 1 – REVISED

Shortly after writing the following blog post, I learned of all the changes to what can be taken to the Athlete’s Village. Much of what runners were able to take to the Athlete’s Village is no longer allowed due to increased security as outlined HERE.

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2013 The walk from the Athlete’s Village, past the baggage trucks to the start corrals

I’m sure glad I took the photo below, last year, when I arrived in Boston for the marathon. It is my visual checklist for everything I’ll need this year. This will save me a lot of time, and I am really time-crunched at present, which explains the blogless month of February. I have a gala to organize for April 30th, coursework to finish mid-April and a marathon to train for.

To ensure that I had all bases covered for race-day gear, I created a spreadsheet for all possible permuations and combinations of weather conditions. For today, my focus is on the items that you might not have on hand. 

Ready for any weather

Ready for any weather

1) I’m feeling quite pleased for having already picked up my waiting-in-Hopkinton camp stool. As I did last year, I bought it at Canadian Tire for $7.99. You’ll see many camping chairs on sale along Boylston street. They are not just for spectators but for runners who wish to pass their time in the Athlete’s village in greater comfort. I’ve never found lying on a damp bed of newspapers for a couple of hours to be the best way to get psyched for the run.

Camp Stool
PRODUCT #76-1557-0
Reg. $7.99

2) While you are picking up a camp stool you can also pick up an emergency rain poncho.

3) The next step is to visit a Value Village Thrift Store or similar and to pick up a cheap windjacket and windpants. Being a small person, I usually find what I need in the boys or girls section. The black Champion windpants and rust coloured windjacket (lined no less) were the results of last year’s Value Village outing.

There are baggage trucks enroute to the race corrals to take some of your personal belongings to the finish line. However I never check anything that I would be sorry to lose. And, I always like to have the option of not picking up my bag and going straight back to my hotel in case there is a long line-up. I always try and stay at a hotel within walking distance of the marathon finish line. Last year, the sound of the bomb blast was the decisive factor in not picking up my bag.

Also, it is good to have clothing to wear until minutes before the race start and after you have checked your bag. This is called throwaway clothing. Volunteers come round with bags to collect the throwaway clothing. Imagine the overhead scene as everyone ditches their throwaways.

Yesterday, I ran 30K, which is my last long run before the marathon. My recent long runs have been with my go-to Saturday run group, the Wise Guys (or if we were a team, the Philosoraptors, perhaps). Named so as they are three profs and a statistician. The head wise guy is absent from this photo taken yesterday to commemorate my Boston-training-run milestone. This was taken in a famous Toronto running route, Mt. Pleasant cemetery.

Long run companions, the wise guys

Long run companions, the wise guys

I’ll be concentrating on quality miles now and getting more rest in between those faster paced tempo runs and interval workouts. If all goes well with my recovery from the long run I plan to run 3-5 X 1200 with my team, the UTTC Masters tomorrow.

As for my bag-packing goals, I’m aiming to have my bag packed at least 2-3 days before I leave for Boston if not earlier.


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16 weeks to the Boston Marathon

I needed the reminder that arrived via FaceBook that the countdown to Boston has begun and the B.A.A. has training programs for the beginner or intermediate and advanced level. I’ve been delaying my return to training but did make it out tonight for an indoor track workout with my team the UTTC Masters.  These two things signalled that I can say today is the day, that my marathon training kicks-off.

I’ve been running fewer miles since the cross-country season ended in mid-November but my regular cruising pace has improved. This, thanks to a marathon-less fall and a focus on shorter distance training for indoor and outdoor track and cross-country races from 4K to 8K.

I was happy with my workout of 4 x 1200 with a two-minute recovery. I got progressively faster with 4:30. 4:18, 4:15 & 4:12. I felt good about the final fast one, as I had planned to do just 3 of the repeats.

I’m planning to get my marathon mileage in by doing a lot of doubles, to and from work. This will nicely  sandwich my very sedentary job at which I roll around my office from computer to printer to filing cabinet on my chair.

A teammate and I chatted about the extraordinary cost of hotels in Boston this year. The place I booked, is now $200 higher than when I booked a couple of months ago. My son the software developer has alerted me to the fact that just the act of “viewing” hotel websites can drive the cost up.

I’m planning to devote a future blog post to all the stuff one needs (or at least I feel I need) to be ready for any type of weather for the Boston marathon. One aspect of this is the fine-art of staying comfortable in the athlete’s village for 2-3 hours while waiting for the marathon start. A key item is shown at the top centre of the photo below. The camp chair is guaranteed to make you feel like a king or queen of the athlete’s village. I took this photo last year to remind myself of all the clothing combos needed and to start looking early at Value Village for suitable “throwaway clothing”.

So there is the training and there is the gear and then there will be much contemplation of why I will be running Boston despite being on the verge of semi-retirement from the marathon.  As the day draws nearer, and the runs get longer, I expect the emotions for all those training for the big day, will deepen, and the reasons why I feel compelled to go back one more time, will become more clear.

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A matter of time, crossing the line at Boston

It is taking me awhile to process the experience of crossing the finish line at the Boston Marathon at 2:39:20 p.m. – 10 minutes before the explosions went off at 2:49:43 p.m.

BostonFinish Area3in-x

Where I was standing when I heard the explosions is shown by the *X*

Runners are greeted at the finish line by officials whose  job is to make sure they move along quickly through the post-finish line area which spreads over three city blocks. This process includes; recovery drinks and water, getting a heat sheet blanket, a sticker to keep the heat blanket secured, a medal, the option of a photo while wearing the heat sheet blanket and medal and then a bag of food. I did all of the above, except for the drinks in those ten minutes.

Just after receiving my bag of food explosions were heard and a very large plume of smoke rose to what seemed like 20 stories high. It appeared to be at least a mile away. My sense is that we were all thinking “this can’t be good” but were hoping that it might be simply be a gas explosion. Nobody wanted to believe that it could be something more sinister.

An integral aspect of the Boston Marathon experience is the spectators. Having been buoyed by their support all the way, I now realize survivor guilt is inevitable. The rational question is “Why anyone?” but as a benefactor of the incredible enthusiasm and cheer-leading at Boston the question for a participant becomes “Why so many spectators when they were only there for us?”.

PROTECTED FROM ANXIETY

Somehow the mayhem did not immediately spread two blocks past the finish line.  We did not hear a chorus of sirens wail, leading one woman to echo our hopes (or state of denial) when she said, “It’s funny that there aren’t more sirens maybe that means its not serious.”  We saw one or two officials run towards the finish line but without giving us any direction. We had no idea what was going on. The roar of the crowds at Boston are deafening. I think I will always ask myself why we were not able to make out that the screams of encouragement from two blocks away had turned to screams of anguish, pain and terror.

We finishers continued,  albeit with some anxiety, with the usual post-race routine, the next step to pick up a checked bag. My checked bag contained items that I was willing to leave behind should the line-up be overlong.  I have a cache of old gear saved expressly for this. My habit with out-of-town marathons is to stay at  hotel within reasonable walking distance to the marathon finish should I decide to skip picking up my baggage and have just a heat blanket to keep warm. I still considered picking up my bag as there was still no sense of panic in my immediate area. I walked by the baggage bus and saw that there was a line-up of 6-7 runners for my bib number sequence (which by usual standards is quite reasonable) but decided that it was sensible to skip the baggage check. I walked quickly out of the runner-only area eager to reunite with my husband asap.

Our hotel was 1 mile from the finish line and our meet-up plan was a street corner enroute to the hotel. The understanding was that if he was not there, I would likely head back to the hotel and message him. At the best of times, nothing is more unpredictable than trying to connect with friends and family after a marathon, especially when you are away from your home city. The chaos and worry that ensued for all those who were more immediately affected by uncertainty in reuniting must have been grueling.

Boston after the finish line

Turning towards a spectator friend for a photo after crossing the finish line in 2007

My mental construct was that my husband may have seen me cross the finish line and be walking parallel to me on the sidewalk toward the exit to the runner-only area or our meeting spot. I drew this image from 2007 when I was spotted by a friend just after I finished and she took a photo from the sidelines. Since I did not realize how close the blast had been this image did not cause me to worry. I walked over to our meeting spot and my husband was not there so I walked quickly back to the hotel where I immediately emailed him.

3:26 p.m.
Subject: I am at the hotel 🙂

Shortly after, he replied . . .

3:31 p.m.
Subject: re: I am at the hotel 🙂

Thank God

After this an email arrived which included a link to a photo from the devastation at the finish line. I was then that I became aware of what had happened.


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Post-Boston Marathon

Dear friends,

Thank you for all your concern and care. I deeply mourn and grieve for the loss of life and injury suffered by so many at the Boston marathon. My heart and prayers go out to their friends and families. The spectators at Boston are one-of-a-kind and exemplify the best of American exuberance, civic pride and love-of-sport. As a runner whose spirits have been buoyed by the unbelievable cheer-leading of Bostonians for a fifth time, the fact that spectators were a target adds yet another element of tragedy. If city dwellers everywhere could rise to the level of support and celebration that exists at Boston, cities everywhere would be better for it. Boston, we feel your pain.

Lynn

Lynn Deutscher Kobayashi

Finish line 2007


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The Boston Marathon, a bigger picture

Toronto_Marathon_1995

Running a first marathon with mom

Before I met Amy, the author of this blog post, I met her mom, Jeraldine Ballon. But the circle has closed and now Amy and I are members of the same track club. Knowing something of what the Boston marathon means to her, I asked her to share her very special memories of her mom and their shared love of running. Here is her beautiful story.

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It has been 12 years since I last ran the Boston Marathon, but this time of year still brings back many memories of Boston and my mom. Of the 10 marathons my mother ran between the ages of 51 and 56, four of them were Boston. This is her story of becoming an athlete, and her road to Boston.

Boston marathon 1997

Boston marathon 1997

Always the last kid picked to be on a team, I don’t think my mother thought she had an athletic bone in her body. Plus, as someone with a penchant for beer and potato chips who happened to be rail-thin, she may not have thought that she even needed to exercise. Everything changed when she won a membership to a posh, downtown Toronto gym. I remember the day she went in for her fitness assessment in a pair of sparkly sneakers she’d purchased on vacation at a K-Mart because they were the only ‘runners’ she owned.

The positive experience she had in the gym quickly snowballed and she fell in love. Not only did she enjoy watching her body grow stronger, but she discovered running. Her goal of running a marathon followed soon after and she planned to run the New York City Marathon. As I stood on the sidelines that day, both our lives were changed. My mom was hooked, and I was inspired. I promptly began training for my first marathon

Together we ran marathons in Toronto, Chicago and Washington. My mother also went on to run Paris. Our times decreased and our love of running increased while we logged hundreds and hundreds of training miles together. My mother started to get really fast, consistently winning her age category. I counted myself lucky to have this special relationship with both running and my mother.

Boston 1998

Boston 1998

And then there was Boston. My mom ran Boston in 1997, 1998 and 1999. And she ran with me after I qualified in 2000. Boston in 2000 was also special because it was just six months after her hysterectomy. She had had emergency surgery after cancer had been discovered in her uterus. Funny enough, it was her running that led her to self-diagnose. Her training had made her so aware of what was going on in her body, that went things started to feel ‘off’, she advocated for herself very quickly. She was treated, given a clean bill of health, and a 98% survival rate.

Things were good that fall: I was newly married, newly graduated from business school, and working in a great job. Training for was going well too, until one day when my mother told me that she didn’t think Boston 2001 would be in the cards. She wasn’t feeling well.

A few months later her worst suspicions were confirmed: Against the odds, the cancer had metastasized and her body was riddled with it. She was told that she had a few months to live. Nothing could be done to treat her.

In April 2001 I traveled to Boston with my husband, my dad and my mom who came to support me. My mother was not in great shape. It took a lot of effort to walk even a block or two. But she managed to score three passes to the finish line seats on the bleachers on Boylston Street. (Thank you, Adidas!) That was not an easy race. Heartbreak Hill took on a new meaning for me that day. Choking back my tears, I saw my family in the stands as I crossed the finish line. Boston was the last trip my mother took. She died a few months later.

Losing my mom was the worst thing that has ever happened to me. But how lucky am I that I had a mother who, by inspiring me, introduced me to running and changed my life? How lucky am I that I got to run the Boston Marathon with my mother? How many people get to say that?

Boston 1999

Boston 1999

I haven’t run Boston since that year, and in fact took a ten year hiatus from the sport. But I have started to run again. Who knows, maybe I’ll be back on Boylston Street one day; maybe with one of my own daughters. One thing I know for sure: When I run now, the inspiration my mother provided is right there with me.

~ Amy Ballon