Mind, Motion & Matter

Running, Essentially . . .

The "mountaineous sliver" named "Bridge to Heaven" connecting Lakes Chamo and Abaya


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Imagine, Ethiopia

Arba Minch - Sunrise 01

Sunrise on “Bridge to Heaven”, the mountaineous sliver connecting Rift Valley, Lakes Chamo &  Abaya

“As once the winged energy of delight
carried you over childhood’s dark abysses,
now beyond your own life build the great
arch of unimagined bridges.”                       Rainer Maria Rilke

The road to Ethiopia began on a treadmill at the YMCA exactly five years ago.  I had made a commitment to organize a fundraising gala for People to People Aid Organization. With a venue booked at the ROM I realized that I had better start envisioning how that event would look. So in the free-flowing creative state that can be invoked on an easy run, I began to write the event blurb, “Imagine spring with cherry trees in bloom, and an evening party in the elegant and sophisticated lounge setting of C5 at the ROM.”

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Hike to Asheton Maryam Monastery at 9800 feet. (Photo, John Chou)

My husband and I went on to 5 years of organizing and chairing the People4Kids Gala to raise funds for children orphaned by AIDS in Ethiopia – three years at the ROM and two years at the LUMA in the TIFF Bell Lightbox. From day one we began to meet many members of Toronto’s Ethiopian community who appreciated our efforts to help out. One constant message was to keep in mind that Ethiopia is a beautiful, vibrant country. It felt inevitable that we would one day visit – it was just a matter of “when”. Five galas later with much money raised, and close to full-retirement for us both, we finally made it to see both the country and the organization whose work the gala had supported.

Here are Five Things that Struck me about Ethiopia

  1. Ethiopia IS a beautiful country with vistas both stark and lush.
  2. Ethiopians are special people with a unique and remarkable history.
  3. Ethiopia is a one of the poorest countries in the world.
  4. Ethiopia is not an easy country to run in.
  5. Ethiopia is a very safe country.

BEAUTY

We travelled to 8 different cities and towns flying first to Arba Minch in the south and then the classic Northern tour of Bahir Dar, Lalibela, Axum and Gondar all by air. We returned to the south with a road trip to Hawassa and Lake Langano. Our two trips to the south included stopovers in Ziway, Chencha, Dorze village, Butijara and a quick visit to a coffee collective in Aleto Wondo. Did you know that 90% of Africa’s mountains are in Ethiopia? The Rift valley with its lakes with mountain surrounds, the rugged mountains of Lalibela reaching 10,000 meters and peeks from afar, of the Simien and Bale mountains, amply illustrate this fact.

Lalibela-Church01

Rock hewn churches of Lalibela, Unesco World Heritage Site (Photo, John Chou)

HISTORY

Ethiopia has nine UNESCO world heritage sites, which along with Morocco is the most of any country in Africa. Nine of those ten sites are cultural sites. Ethiopia is the only country in Africa that has never been colonized. For a short period it was occupied by the Italians but it is point of pride that it has never been a colony. It is for this reason that the African Union Headquarters is in Addis Ababa.

POVERTY & HEALTHCARE

It is one thing to know intellectually that Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world – 11th from the bottom in per capita GDP. Actually seeing how people living on $2 USD a day live is like the difference between looking at a picture of food and tasting it. Currently there is a severe drought in the Tigray and Afar regions which some say is worse than the drought of 1984 which killed more than 1 million Ethiopians.

On the positive side, life expectancy has risen from 52 to 62 over the past 10 years. Although with so little resources for medical care, a child in Ethiopia with cancer of any kind has little chance of survival.

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A little wind sprint, North of Gondor, Simien Mountains in sight (Photo, John Chou)

RUNNING 

While one of Ethiopia’s greatest exports is world-class distance runners including Haile Gebrsellasie, the greatest distance runner ever, it is not that easy for a visitor to run in Addis Ababa. Driving style, pollution and poor road/sidewalk infrastructure make running in Addis a huge challenge. Running in some of the smaller towns or cities can be a bit easier. The advantage of training at altitude, Addis is about 2600 meters, helps to produce world-class distance runners but for the everday athlete adaptation to altitude can be quite variable. Fortunately, for all my fears due to a bad experience in Sante Fe a few years back, I had no adverse effects but I was severely limited in my runs by the other constraints.

SAFETY

Not being a particularly adventurous sort, the fact that Ethiopia is one of the safest countries in Africa to travel was an attraction. While it may be a very poor country, there does not seem to be a culture of criminality alongside this. We always felt very safe. Far safer than we did in our visit last spring to Chicago. People were kind and helpful and you got the feeling that if you did run into trouble on the street, the locals would help you.

THE FUTURE

Sister Tibebe

We met the amazing Sister Tibebe of Hiwot Integrated Development Association (HIDA) a few years ago when she spoke in Toronto as a guest of CUSO. We were pleased to meet again in Ethiopia at a party for the children of the various programs run by HIDA.

So this trip was the culmination of an important part of our lives for the past five years. Most of the ferengi (foreigners) we met while there, were those involved in aid work. In fact, we bumped into friends from 22 years back with whom we lost touch with and discovered that they have lived in Addis for 18 years and very much a part of the community of NGO’s in Ethiopia. We met a Dutch man working with religious leaders in small communities so they can help influence their communities to abandon the widespread practice of female genital mutilation, a Japanese man involved with helping strengthen coffee cooperatives and a young economist with the World Food Programme who had decided that he had written enough papers on international development and it was time to some experience on the ground.

And most importantly there are the Ethiopians, the returning diaspora and the extensive world-wide diaspora working towards change in multi-faceted ways. Notably Haile Gebrsellasie, who I had the great honour to meet. He showed us around his Addis office and introduced us to the staff of the Great Ethiopian Run, Africa’s largest running race. But this I think is a topic for a separate blog post.

Haile Gebrsellasie-01

I greatly admire the committment to change all these individuals represent. While Ethiopia is a wonderful place to visit, for those used to the comforts of developed nations, living there for longer periods of time would be a challenge for most of us.

As the impact of this trip takes hold, I find myself thinking it is only a matter of time before our relationship with Ethiopia will be reimagined, knowing that imagination cannot contain the fullness of what the next five years might hold.

Arba Minch -02 John

Dining room at the Paradise Lodge, Arba Minch, Ethiopia

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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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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Exactly three years ago . . .

I neglected to celebrate my third blog-o-versary earlier this month. It all started when I took a blogging course at OCAD with a great instructor Greg Smith. I went on to complete the OCAD Digital Media Certificate which has helped me on-the-job with website content management  and communications.  Hundreds of blog posts later, here I am, albeit struggling to get in a minimum of two posts a month. I feel that if I don’t keep that up, I’ll stop entirely. Which begs the question, why not stop . . . hmmm, the topic of my next post? Actually my problem is not lack of content but too many ideas and too much to say, which makes it hard to get started.

Anyhow, the following is post from August 31, 2010 and it was interesting (to me at least) to see that I was then contemplating joining the UTTC Masters. It took me awhile to finally sign up but ta da, I’ve been a card-carrying member for over 1 1/2 years and loving it.

First Stop Sacramento  (August 31, 2010)

For someone who is used to running high-mileage in marathon training.  Running 50 miles a week hardly takes a thought.  I run about an hour a day with a 2 hour plus run on the weekend – this is the default.   However, with 15 weeks until my pre-Boston, marathon outing in Sacramento, the moment has come to either train seriously, forget about it or suffer in the final miles of the race.

2007, Sacramento 30K

So, I’m formulating my plan and the mileage build will go like this 57 miles this week, 61 miles next week and 57 miles the following week (including a rare day off for travel).  I like to do 2-3 solid weeks of building miles and then take an easier week.  Fortunately, this easy week will coincide with a trip to Germany.  My long run will increase from 12-15 miles to 17, 18 and up to 22 miles.

In addition to the increased mileage I have to start speedwork.  I’ve committed to hitting the track with a group.  For the past two years I’ve been taking evening courses, this year I will go to track school.  I’m excited about running on the new Varsity stadium track.  The very scene of my first marathon finish.  The coach, Paul Osland is a former Olympian who is now whipping a group of motivated masters into tip top shape.  I’m apprehensive about the return to the intensity of speed work.  My fast running for the past two years has gone something like this . . . run fast when I feel like it for 30 – 120 seconds.  Take as much rest as I need.

From what I can tell, the plan for Thursday is to run 150 meters at a very fast pace, 18 times and the do it again for a total of 36 fast repeats.  Then we are to bound up stairs, 2 steps at a time, 5 times and then repeat.  I’ve never done circuit training, of which we are to do 4 laps.  Hmm . . .

This could be painful.  Given that most of these runners will be peaking in the early fall, and my timing of a December marathon is unusual, I hope to get some sort of just-starting-out dispensation. I’m reminded of how once, when in top form I remarked to another runner as we readied ourselves for a grueling session à la Zeba Crook that his workouts were effective because they helped us to increase our pain threshold.  The runner turned to me and said, “but that is not what I signed up for”. No doubt . . . I’ll soon have a tale to tell.

Gulp . . .