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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Running with an Ethiopian Legend

 Miruts, Michal & Me

Lynn Kobayashi, Miruts Yifter, Michal Kapral, the Joggler

Lynn Kobayashi, Miruts Yifter and Michal “The Joggler” Kapral

Last year I boldly laid claim to getting the Ethiopian community in Toronto running. This year, the Ethiopians in Toronto are clearly on an upward trajectory led by Ethiopian running giant, Miruts Yifter. How was it that I was able to convince my Ethiopian friends that taking part in the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon races was a must? The short answer is orphan sponsorship. Double-gold medal Olympian Miruts Yifter has embraced the cause of the over 1 million orphaned children in Ethiopia. AND joggling in Miruts footsteps was Michal Kapral “the Joggler” who dedicated his successful Guinness World Record attempt to P2P Canada’s orphan sponsorship program.

Leading up to the race we had fun. An interview with Michal gave me the chance to meet up with Michal and Miruts Yifter. Earlier, there was a training session in Riverdale Park where Miruts led the team through some stretching and offered training tips. The interviewer was running late but our time hanging out in the hotel lobby was well-spent. There was a steady stream of elite marathon runners passing by including a few Ethiopians.

Tariku Jufar with Miruts Yifter

Tariku Jufar with Miruts Yifter

This was fun because the Ethiopian athletes kept doing double-takes in delight when they spotted Miruts. I passed my cell phone to Miruts so he could see the YouTube footage of his gold medal 10K and he showed this to the young Ethiopians. When Miruts mentioned that this took place in 1980, the reaction of the two youngsters betrayed the fact that they had not yet been born. This made for an all-round chuckle.

The group also discussed the speed of Miruts last 400 in this race, an astonishing 49 seconds. Apparently, this is an Ethiopian record of sorts for the final lap of a 10K. Miruts of course is nicknamed “The Shifter” for his ability to shift into this otherworldly gear.

Tariku Jufar of Ethiopia finished second in 2:08:36 at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on October 19th, 2014. I finished first in the 55-59 age-category and very much enjoyed having my son and husband take part too. Race morning was finished off nicely with a post-race celebration at Sheba Restaurant where we enjoyed a buffet breakfast of Ethiopian and Canadian goodies. And of course, some great coffee!

Steven Deutscher-Kobayashi, Lynn Kobayashi, Pat Deutscher

Me and my family

Our amazing team of elite fundraisers raised over $35,000 for children orphaned by AIDS in Ethiopia. While a few of the young runners were ahead of me in the race, many were not, which led me to challenge this contingent of young runners to make sure they trained next year to ensure they beat me.

Young Ethiopians

Trash talking with the youngsters


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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.

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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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Douglas J. (Shaggy) Smith, masters running impresario

How does he do it? This is a question I ask myself regularly on the heels of Ontario Masters Athletics (OMA) events for which Doug assumes duties as registrar, volunteer coordinator, webmaster, meet director, photographer and a few other tasks that only those, who have done this work, would know of. And did I mention helping us retrieve lost passwords for our membership login page? I returned to racing in 1996 at an indoor Masters Meet. Doug’s involvement predates this and he has been an ever-present “force” since.

In order to find out a little more about the always-in-motion Doug, I asked him the same questions from my previous post, taken from the article New Years Lessons and Resolutions from Canadian Runners . I also added some questions of my own.

Doug Smith in the Steeplechase, Canadian Outdoor Track Championships

Doug Smith in the Steeplechase, Canadian Outdoor Track Championships

DOUG’S ANSWERS to New Years Lessons and Resolutions from Canadian Runners

What did you learn in 2013 that you want to apply to your training in 2014?
Lack of consistent mileage was a problem I’ll try to work on in 2014.

What was a great moment that you will remember about 2013?
Running at the back of the pack in the Steeplechase at the World Championships in Brazil. So happy to be competing after cracking my tibia in the Steeple three months earlier.

What goals do you have for 2014?
Nothing special….just to keep going.Two resolutions: one running resolution and a non-running one? I never have resolutions. I always try to improve myself – in running, training, and in administration of our events.

MY QUESTIONS FOR DOUG

1980 Toronto Marathon, Doug's first

1980 Toronto Marathon, Doug’s first

When did you start running?
I ran around the block when I was a little kid, with my Dad timing me, after I saw Abebe Bikila win the Olympic Marathon in ’60. I ran in High School, but just in Phys. Ed. class. There was no track team.

Who got you started?
I started in earnest in ’78, right in the Jim Fixx running boom. We had moved into the house and I was ready to get into it. My wife got me a running log for my birthday and I’ve kept one ever since.

What was your first race?
After running in the neighbourhood for a year and a half, I decided to try the Eaton’s 10K in 1980. I ran 49:00. Then, in September, I paid the $5 entry fee and ran the Toronto Marathon with very little mileage or any idea what I was doing. The last 10K was gruesome and I finished in 4:14

Doug Smith & Paul Osland, Presiden of Canadian Masters Athletics (3rd term)

Doug Smith & Paul Osland, President of Canadian Masters Athletics (3rd term)

Who got you involved with the OMA?
I showed up for a race in Sunnybrook Park in ’88. It happened to be cancelled. I noticed these guys warming up for a Metro Fitness race and I went in that one. They told me there was a Masters cross-country race the next weekend. That was the first time I heard of the Masters.

I went to the OMA Outdoors in’91 in Oshawa. I was looking for a ride home, so I went to the AGM to look for one. They were looking for another Board member, and someone said “What about this guy?”. . . I couldn’t think of a good excuse. Two years later I was President.

How did you get into photography?
I joined the Photography Club in High School. I became the President (I see a trend here!). One of the priests set up a darkroom and I shot all the team photos and developed and printed them, I also worked for the Yearbook. I set up a darkroom when we got the house and then digital came along.

What running accomplishment are you most proud of?
Hmmm . . . I ran the CMA Championships Steeplechase in Montreal in 1990 when they announced it was a M35 Canadian Record. That kind of took me by surprise. I’ve run 23 marathons and well over 500 races and I only dropped out of two – one with a foot injury, and one when I pulled a hamstring in the World’s cross-country meet in Finland.

At my first track meet ever – the OMA Indoor Championships in 1989, I ran 4:36 in the 1500m, then 2:22 in the 800m, then rested a bit on the lunch break and then ran 18:15 in the 5000m. I never ran faster in the 800 and 1500.

What made you decide to compete in the steeplechase?
I guess I saw my first Steeple at the masters meet in ’89 and thought that it looked like fun. I wondered if being taller would be a bit of an advantage. I tried it for the first time at the Ontario Championships the next year.

It became my favourite event. You have to pace yourself so carefully – to save enough energy to get over all the barriers, as well as working harder than any other event in the last laps! I hurdled the barriers until I was about 44, then I started stepping on them. Then, when I was about 56, I started vaulting them. At 60, they were lower, and I started stepping on them again.

Five non-running biographical facts you would like to share.

  • I worked for 30 years as a tech at Bell and retired in 2004.
  • I’ve been married (to the same woman) for 42 years.
  • I’ve been President of the Ontario Masters for 20 years.
  • I played a small part in founding the University of Toronto Masters Track Club 5 years ago.


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New Years Lessons and Resolutions

Alan Brookes of the Canada Running Series retweeted the article New Years Lessons and Resolutions from Canadian Runners with the question, How about YOU? This blog post is my reply to the questions asked in that article.

Oh, where oh where would we older folks run track without OMA

Oh, where oh where would we older folks run track without the OMA

What did you learn in 2013 that you want to apply to your training in 2014

The importance of maintaining good leg turnover. I’ve known this intellectually for most of my 30+ years of running but training with the UTTC Masters track team with coach Paul Osland, an Olympian,  has provided the tools to make this a part of my training routine. Even though I have been running fewer miles since the Ontario cross-country championships last November, I’ve been able to maintain my cruising pace, which has quickened thanks to regular track workouts.

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Super-fast coach Paul

What was a great moment that you will remember about 2013?

That is a difficult choice. But I’m going to say being chosen Ontario Masters Athlete of the month for February by Ontario Masters Athletics (OMA). This gives me the chance to highlight the fantastic support masters runners and track athletes get in Ontario.  I was recognized for having broken the Canadian indoor 5K record twice at this rarely-raced distance.
Doug Smith checks out Doug Smith trophy at U of T Athletic Center

Doug Smith checks out Doug Smith trophy at U of T Athletic Center

The remarkable thing to me is the dedication of long-time volunteers like Doug Smith (President of the OMA) who create the opportunity to race and break records. Doug Smith who with his self-deprecating sense of humour, does an amazing job of making everyone feel welcome whether to the OMA or to UTTC Masters on top of just about everything else including meet organizing, race photos and website maintenance. There are many dedicated volunteers who helps as timers, registrars, lap-timers, record-keepers, cheerleaders and more, including Stafford who emailed me a nice certificate to commemorate the 5K record. Paul Osland our high-functioning Olympian coach, is in his third term as President of the CMA, following in Doug’s footsteps as an extraordinary volunteer. On behalf of all masters runners in Ontario. Thank you all!
The University of Toronto Track Club (UTTC) has recently fully embraced the Masters concept and the UTTC Masters have been warmly welcomed to the main club. A huge benefit is sharing the indoor track and outdoor track at Varsity Stadium.
What goals do you have for 2014?

In order of priority:

  1. Help UTTC Masters team win the Breslin Cup.
  2. Increase my age-graded score for the outdoor 1500 at the Ontario Masters Provincial Track and Field Championships
  3. Increase my age-graded score for 5k on the road.
  4. Run faster than last year at the Boston Marathon.

Two resolutions: one running resolution and a non-running one?

Get back to regular weight work. When I was in top form I was able to legpress 250 lbs. and squat 135 lbs. I can probably only do about 60-65% of that now. Remain ever-grateful for the good heath that allows me to keep training so I can get slower gracefully.

Keep mentally fit. One aspect of this is to keep up to date with all things digital. This is made easier with my great in-house tutor, son Steven, a recent U of T, comp-sci grad. He knows how much time I spend at home and at work on the computer so to celebrate his first job as a software developer, he surprised me with a Christmas gift of a Yoga Pro 2 laptop. He told me this will increase my productivity. Weighing in at 3.1 pounds with a 13.1″ by 8.6″ high resolution screen, perhaps this highly-portable laptop means I should set my sights higher than my two posts a month. I’m not about to make promises I can’t keep but we shall see!

Lean, mean blogging machine


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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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The Boston Marathon, be prepared

The Canadian fall marathon season peaked at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon with the stunning performance of Lanni Marchant who set a new Canadian record of 2:28:00 for the marathon. The former record of 2:28:36 has been famously held by the humble and unassuming Sylvia Ruegger for 27 years. Ruegger at times has seemed almost embarrased for the record to have stood for so long and was at the finish line to greet Marchant.

My fall season will not include a marathon for the first time in 3 years. With the sharp decline in my marathon performance, in relative terms, I have decided to run fewer marathons, with a focus on running a marathon mainly as a celebration of a significant birthday. Last fall I ran the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, in 2011 it was NYC and the year before, the California International Marathon in Sacramento. I have my eye on the Marine Corps Marathon as the stage for my next big birthday celebration.  An exception to this general marathon reduction scheme is the 2014 Boston Marathon. Like most who ran last year, returning in 2014 feels necessary in bringing a sense of closure to the 2013 experience.

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This is where it all begins

My fall has been about cross-country running and after November 16th, when the final race of the Ontario Masters Cross-Country Series takes place, my training will be focused on the Boston Marathon.  The first step to being prepared for Boston 2014 it seems, is finding a centrally located Boston hotel that is less than $400 a night. Prices seem to have jumped more than 50% from last spring. Advice to those training for Boston is to make your hotel reservation ASAP.

Earlier this fall we passed through Boston on our way to Cape Cod and could not resist taking the exit to Hopkinton.  We had some fun checking out a few start line attractions that one might not see while while lining up for the race with a cast of 30,000.

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The town of Hopkinton’s motto is “It All Starts Here” and the motto is captured in a bronze life-size statue of George V. Brown the legendary starter of the Boston Marathon for over 30 years. We also enjoyed the newly erected statue of my heroes Dick and Rick Hoyt who I met at the Boston Marathon Race Expo last spring. While viewing the statue a woman walked by and told us that her last name was Hoyt but while she was not related to the famous Hoyts, she wished she were.  The Hoyts were mentioned in President Barack Obama’s speech at the Interfaith Service after the Boston Marathon tragedy.

“In the words of Dick Hoyt, who has pushed his disabled son Rick in 31 Boston marathons, we can’t let something like this stop us. This doesn’t stop us.  And that’s what you’ve taught us, Boston. That’s what you’ve reminded us, to push on, to persevere, to not grow weary, to not get faint even when it hurts.”

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I’ll be thinking about Dick and Rick Hoyt when I run up Heartbreak Hill in the spring.

Yes we can!

Plaque-Hoyt