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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Weight Training, Love it or Lose It (again)

I’m reblogging this post for my UTTC Masters friend Amy who was asked me last night whether I have ever done weight training. I’m using her question to make it easy for me to post for the first time in four months. When I started my blog, I was not active on FaceBook but I confess that since I started becoming more active, it has taken me away from focusing on regular blog posts.

This is also a good opportunity to link to the beautiful article Amy wrote about her mom and the Boston Marathon.

I am a big believer in the benefits of lower body weight training. However, my weight training has waned over the past couple of years. I’m hoping this will reinvigorate me and I’ll get back to the program. Here is the original blog post from February 2011. At the end of the post are links to a couple more posts on weight training.

Weight Training, Love it or Lose It

Since blogging about the start of my off-season weight training regime, I have indeed been working through the first phase of Anatomical Adaptation as defined by Joe Friel, in the Triathlete’s Training Bible. My friend uber-Ironman triathlete Bev Coburn introduced me to this method of periodization of weight training.  I’ll never forget how she, in her low key way, said once you start this routine you’ll be doing this for the rest of your life.  In fact, I been doing upper body weight training since my early twenties however I had never done lower body weights, as I felt that running was enough of a leg workout AND I had never systemized my weight training.  You can find out more about Bev’s athletic accomplishments and work as a personal trainer and fitness consultant at Active Age Fitness.

Ed Whitlock, Beverly Coburn, Bob Moore

So she was very right, as nearly a decade later, I’m sticking with the program and see no end in sight.  My favourite part is the Maximum Strength Phase as this is where you really see yourself bulk up a little.  So why not time this phase to coincide with a reunion with your high school basketball team or a holiday when you will be mainly wearing a swimsuit. The reality of my training is that the maximum weight phase does not coincide with key races.  Once the serious racing begins, weight training shifts into maintenance mode and my focus is on becoming very lean and wiry.

Anatomical Adaptation (AA) phase * (2 sets)
Total sessions/Phase 8-12
Sessions/Week 2-3
Load Select loads that allow only 20-30 reps
Reps/Set 20-30
Speed of Lift Slow to moderate, emphasizing form
Recovery (in minutes) 1-1.5

* Table from Triathlete’s Training Bible

Here is a list of the weight machines or free weights I use.

UPPER BODY
Lat pull-down machine
Chest press machine
Seated row machine
Free weights or machine for pectoral muscles
Bicep curls with free weights
Reverse wrist curl with free weights

LOWER BODY
Squats on Smith machine
Leg press machine
Calf raise on leg press machine
Knee extension machine (no periodization – 3 x 8-10 reps ongoing maintenance)
Hamstring curl machine (no periodization -3 x 8-10 reps ongoing maintenance)
Hip adductor machine (no periodization – 3 X 8-10 reps ongoing maintenance)
Hip abductor machine (no periodization – 3 x 8-10 reps ongoing maintenance)

For my next weight workout I will enter into the Maximum Transition (MT) phase and then into the Maximum Strength Phase, shortly after.  For all the details click on Periodization of Weight Training

Maximum Transition (MT) phase * (3 sets)
Total sessions/Phase 3-5
Sessions/Week 2-3
Load Select loads that allow only 10-15 reps
Reps/Set 10-15
Speed of Lift Slow to moderate, emphasizing form
Recovery (in minutes) 1.5-3

* Table from Triathlete’s Training Bible

What happens if you find that you cannot learn to love weight training? If you are a middle-aged woman, you will experience fairly dramatic declines in strength which can result in poor posture and the hunched shoulder look. You might find opening heavy doors progressively more difficult as well as carrying bags of groceries for more than a short while. If you learn to LOVE the results of consistent weight training, you could be bounding up the double set of long stairs, at the York Mills Subway Station, arriving at the top first, while many of the morning commuters are standing or slowly walking up the escalator.

Subway Stations, A Good Place for Circuit Training

A funny thing happens to me while taking public transit.  I often get offered a seat by kind, younger men and women, sometimes I happily accept this offer, secretly telling myself that yes, my legs could use a break from all the miles I’ve run.

“Citius, Altius, Fortius.”

February 5, 2011

Weight training questions? Talk to the Blog

My husband and I were discussing what stages of weight training each of us is in.  I am in the Maximum Transition (MT) phase and he is in the Maximum Strength (MS) phase.  He asked a few questions about how … Continue reading 

January 28, 2011

Legs in Motion, A Legend

Following my post about weight training, a reader asked for recommended reading. I was reminded of this groundbreaking book from the early 80’s by Gayle Olinekova which inspired me to begin my weight training routine. Gayle was ahead of her … Continue reading 


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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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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


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I was going to give up marathons for awhile but . . .

I’ve been accepted into the 2014 Boston Marathon.  Yes, I was there in 2013 and like many others feel a need to be there in 2014 to get a sense of closure.  I feel bad for those who worked really hard to get under the qualifying time, and just made their times. With the rolling registration dates, depending on how far under the qualification time you ran, it will be difficult to get in this year. The running world will be watching to see how quickly registration fills up for 2014.

Good luck to those who are waiting anxiously to find out whether they will get in.  I would be willing to give up my spot to someone who has been trying to qualify for five years or more. I guess in effect, I could do something along those lines by not registering. So much for altruism.

Lynn Kobayashi, Lynn Deutscher Kobayashi

Boston acceptance email