Mind, Motion & Matter

Running, Essentially . . .


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The habit of blogging (about running)

Kingston-team-01

University of Toronto Masters Track Club in Kingston

Must write something, anything . . . even if it is the writer’s equivalent of running an easy twenty minutes. Over the two years plus that I have been blogging, I’ve been fairly regular, even blogging every day for a few months, back in early 2011. It is an exercise I enjoy and want to maintain but somehow, I didn’t get there in November with zero posts and am in danger of doing the same for December.

I’m never at a loss for ideas and sometimes it is when I have  much to say, that it seems harder to say it. For example I wanted to write something along the lines of “Five Things I Learned from My Marathon Disappointment” but the breadth of the topic stopped me in my tracks. I’m going to have to remember to keep it simple and just do it.

Another reason – In early fall my job found me managing our Facebook site, creating email campaigns on MailChimp and assuming the role of webmaster for our new website. I also installed Google Analytics on our website and found myself somewhat mesmerized by the interactions between social media, e-blasts and website visits. I think this left little energy to attend to my personal on-line presence.

Feeling okay after the marathon

Feeling okay after the marathon

But I do want to continue and in spite of the stack of unwritten Christmas cards beside me and many tasks that need doing in the next four days, I am committed to regaining some momentum. I enjoy blogging and while my posts are not deep in analysis, I feel the simple act of recording some aspects of my life is good for my mental fitness and ability to write fast.

The highlight of running in November was taking part in the Ontario Masters Cross-Country championships in Kingston. It was exactly four weeks after my marathon. To recover from the marathon and prepare for the race in tandem, I ran less than I would normally, post-marathon. Instead, I ran a few quality workouts with minimal content including; tempo workouts of 20 minutes broken up into sections and once a full twenty minutes and intervals of 45 to 90 seconds in duration.

Dylan Wykes with 1st place team, F50-59

Dylan Wykes with 1st place team, F50-59

On race day I felt “sharp-enough” and was happy with my relative age-graded score which was one of the five scores that “counted” for our team placing. I also placed first in my age-category and our team of Women 50-59 placed first.  A nice touch was that Dylan Wykes, Canadian Olympian in the marathon gave out the medals. The drive to and from Kingston with fellow teammates was much enjoyed.

Kingston-Lynn08

Almost two years ago to that day, I ran the same marathon as Dylan Wykes, the California International Marathon in Sacramento. Here my posts from that more prolific blogging period:

Dylan Wykes upset winner of the California International Marathon

The Final Mile, a State of Grace

Marathon morning

I’m astonished to see that I posted 30 times in November 2010. But for now, I’ll take it one-blog-at-a-time and set my blogging goal for 2013 at two posts a month. Ciao and thank you for reading!

Lynn

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A Tale of Three 10K’s

Marathon countdown, two weeks to go and time to start evaluating my training and racing results from the past five weeks to determine a target pace for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

On August 26th, I ran a 10K I’d rather forget in Quebec City. The route was a lovely, slightly rolling, point-to-point route run on a wide scenic parkway along the St. Lawrence with one wide turn. The weather was hideous with near 100% humidity, high-heat and not the slightest breeze to be felt. I was far off my goal of going under 45 minutes with a time of 47:35.

Last Sunday, I ran a 10K in Oakville in 45:37. The weather was fabulous, the course fairly flat and I was satisfied with my time. Apparently the course was long. Members of a local running club posted their times with revisions to what they felt their results should-have-been. I was happy to accept the possibility that my time was really closer to 44:40.

A long course . . . I’m open to the possibility.

Today I took part in what was billed as a time trial. The Railpath Run took place on a 2K loop with a timing mat at each 1K mark. The challenge was to see how many kilometers you could run in 45 minutes. The top three male and female runners were determined by the number of kilometers logged and a tie would be broken by the fastest time for those kilometers. My what-if  is . . . say two runners both run 9K but one runner passes the other and holds the lead before the 45 minutes is up. Does the runner with the fastest 9K time still win? In the women’s race this scenario did not materialize as the top two both ran more than 10K but less than 11K. From about 400 meters, I was in fourth place and not long after passed one woman and held on for third place. I received a lovely photograph taken along the rail path route.

Awards at the Railpath Run

The drama for me came when at the last kilometer I saw that I would have to run a really fast lap to get timed for 10K. With the help of cheering from an enthusiastic volunteer who saw how close I was to crossing the timing mat before 45 minutes was up, I just made it! My last lap was my fastest time of 4:16. I was pleased as the last lap was also one of the harder ones as it had some uphill running and a severe hairpin turn.

MY SPLITS
1: 4:22 4:22 downhill
2: 4:31 8:52 downhill, hairpin turn, uphill
3: 4:36 13:27 uphill
4: 4:35 18:02 uphill, hairpin turn, downhill
5: 4:29 22:30 downhill
6: 4:34 27:03 downhill, hairpin turn, uphill
7: 4:35 31:38 uphill
8: 4:38 36:16 uphill, hairpin turn, downhill
9: 4:30 40:45 downhill
10: 4:16 45:00 downhill, hairpin turn, uphill

Given the impediment of the five hairpin turns, I’m confident that I am in sub 45 minutes shape. For an almost-57- year-old, the age-graded equivalent of 45 minutes is 36:25. I think I’ll be finding it harder to internalize these extrapolations when 50 minutes becomes the new 36 minutes. According to my research this will happen in six years when I turn 63. Like most people, I find it is hard to accept the physical limitations of aging.

Quebec City, happy it’s over. A digital photo for $29.99, I’ll think about it.

As for determining my goal pace for the marathon, that is complicated and I’ll save that for a pre-marathon blog-post in the next while.

The best of times, the worst of times, still glad to be out there. Happy days!

Lynn


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The 100 mile week, redefined

Until a few years ago I could run up to 170K or 105 miles at the peak of marathon training no problem. As I approach my 57th birthday the realities of training in the second half of my sixth decade (other than slower times) have begun to appear. Pounding the pavement takes more out of me and I just can’t train like I used to. What to do?!  While I have been a lifelong commuter cyclist, I’m not too keen on training rides that take three times as long to get the same cardio effect as a run. Training takes enough time as it is.

Back in the day, younger at age 52

So this is where I am at now, with eight weeks before my target race, the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on October 14th. I’m cautiously boosting my mileage. I should hit 102K for this week after logging 18 miles or 29K this morning. After my 5 mile run tomorrow the past week will look like this:

  • 13 miles ( with 2 x 10 minutes at threshold pace)
  • 6 miles easy
  • 7 miles easy
  • 8 miles with a ladder workout of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 (minute) sections of near interval pace running
  • 6 easy
  • 18* steady
  • 5 very easy (tomorrow)
  • Total = 63 miles or 102.5 K

The * asterisk is to note that having devised a new and complicated route to merge my run with a friend’s 10 mile run.  I got home, measured my route and saw that I was short 1.5 miles. You’ll know by this comment that I’m an old-school runner who does not own a GPS watch. Thankfully, I had not cooled down much so I immediately headed out the door and did the missing mileage. I gave myself a little pat on the back for that. Had my husband greeted me with a latte, as he often does post-long run, I might not have been able to gather myself up to get the job done.

Looking ahead, the peak training weeks will be from August 27th to September 24th. From there I will begin a three-week taper. I am curious to see how much mileage I will be able to manage at the summit of my training – the 100 mile week redefined.

As for my goal time, I’m will race a 10K next Sunday, on slightly rested legs, which will help me gauge my fitness level. Naturally, I’m hoping to improve on my 2nd slowest time ever of 3:50 run at NYC last year, the slowest being the 4:10 I ran in my first marathon in 1981.

My results since age 50 are:

3:10:02 Detroit (2005) 1st in age-group

3:13 Chicago (2006) 1st in age-group

3:17 Boston (2007) 3rd in age-group

3:23 Boston (2008) 7th in age-group

3:42 California International Marathon (2010) 1st in age group CLICK HERE for full story

3:50 NYC (2011) Waahhh! This one really hurt bad and I was 29th in age-group. CLICK HERE for full story

I’m hoping I can improve on my 3:42 of two years ago and my most optimistic hope is to run close to 3:30. According to the McMillan running calculator the 21:04 5K I ran in the spring extrapolates to a 3:25 marathon but we all know that for the vast majority of us, it is really difficult to match our shorter distance race performances at  the marathon because of the mileage base required. Surviving marathon training, is a lot of what running a marathon is about.

One bright spot on the topic of aging is that I was able to match past performance levels (age-graded score) at 5K on fewer training miles, with the help of intense  speedwork and an indoor track season build-up to the 5K. But – as a 56 year old marathon runner, accustomed to running the longer path, I’m hoping that a shorter path might still do the trick.

To get to the finish line, you’ll have to try lots of different paths.
Amby Burfoot


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Rave Run – Beach running in Manzanita, Oregon

Running on the edge

Manzanita, Oregon, two hours from Portland and a three-night stay with three morning runs. Manzanita, Manzanita, let me count the ways I love beach running. I am a daily runner so any place that has great running makes for a great start to my day as a tourist. We stayed at the the wonderful Inn at Manzanita  just a block from the beach. Two years ago we spent eight days in Tofino, British Columbia on Cox Bay which I thought quite heavenly with its cozy and quiet 3/4 mile beach. The beach at Manzanita is billed variously as being as little as four miles but up to eight miles long.

The north end of Manzanita Beach

South end of Manzanita beach, nearly 6 miles later

My experience was that it is close to six miles long. I guess it depends on the time and tide. By Tofino standards it is a very quiet beach, even on the morning of Independence Day. My goal was to run to the farthest point of the beach but I fell short by about 200 meters. I got a bit spooked (I hope my mom is not reading this) by being the only person on the beach for the final mile or so. Over the prior two miles, I saw three people. I ran a beautiful, dreamy 9 miles which helped me get to 40 miles for the week. Fantastic!  This beach gets a perfect 10 out of 10. The only not-so-perfect thing about the run was to be without my husband’s company. He now limits himself to three miles, three times a week due to his torn meniscus. It makes me sad to enjoy such a beautiful run without him but as he says, “You have to run for the two two of us now.”

Turnaround point of three miler with my husband


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Running up those hills, Seattle

Cal Anderson Park fountain

The week leading up to our getaway was busy with work deadlines, a visitor and preparations for some painting at our home. Thankfully, our son and our roommate Alain took care of moving the furniture from our guest room and bedroom in our absence. We’ve been away for just over a week and spent three days visiting with my husband’s 96 year old dad. His dad is under the watchful eye of his son the rehab med doctor and continues with a weight lifting routine of many decades.

From Edmonton we took the 100 minute flight to Seattle and stayed at the Sorrento Hotel where we were the lucky recipients of a fabulous room upgrade. At check-in, we were offered the chance to upgrade to a suite for a small increase, which we agreed to this but checked to make sure that our room had a bathtub. We’ve discovered in our travels that increasingly, hotels that have undergone renovations oftentimes have only spa-style showers.  And, indeed when we found that our suite only had a shower so we asked for another room. This error was corrected in grand style as we were given a room that was three times the size of the tub-less suite.

We are sorry to have inconvenienced you. Please accept our apologies.

The concierge told my husband that this corner suite was once occupied by Francis Ford Coppola. He also said that it was used as  a  set for “Sleepless in Seattle” to mimic a Manhattan apartment. Thus enjoying great hotel coffee with our laptops perched atop a large round, wood table, set in a very large bay window area, with a tiny bit of waterfront peeking through tall buildings has become a memorable urban holiday moment. The suite included a large bedroom, a large wooden bar, an office area and a living room area. The open style lobby-bar area was extremely inviting but we never did check it out, due to the excessive comfort of our room. The only down-side to this luxury was the worry that our tipping was not as generous as that of Coppola.

Volunteer Park, Seattle

When I asked about running routes at the front desk, the young man who checked us in admitted that the running in downtown Seattle is not great. My vision of a scenic waterfront running path did not materialize. He pointed us towards Volunteer Park as preferable to the waterfront. I’ve heard that the Seattle marathon is hilly, but the reality of hills only sunk in on our first short run of four miles. Not great for my husband’s knees but it did lead me to finally use the googlemaps pedometer elevation function for the first time ever.

Volunteer Park is home to the Asian Art Museum. It is not a large park with a running circumference of about one mile but it is lush and has well-maintained washrooms. The residential areas surrounding the park are very well treed, with beautiful gardens and colourfully staid facades that matched the Seattle of my imaginings. The hills in some of these residential areas seem frankly, improbable. In doing some research on Galer Street, which seemed one of the steepest hills I’d run, I found it listed on a blog which offered advice on training for hiking in Nepal I ran up this hill after exiting Washington Park, home to Seattle’s Japanese garden.

Run for the treats

Three of my Seattle runs ended at Sugar Bakery and Cafe just around the corner from the hotel. And the treats were sweet and a cut above the usual including; salted caramel croissants and blackberry oat scones and supremely moist carrot, walnut muffins. I ended one run in the fitness center to maintain the momentum of my weight training regime. My husband joined me for his workout and took two photos of my routine, one dignified and the other not so dignified and possibly hilarious.

Curls for biceps

In control

Showing the strain

Apart from the hills, a highlight of our Seattle story was very much about our stay at the Sorrento. The crowning moment of the energetic and superb service at this hotel came as I ran up to the main door at the end of one run and wondered what the doorman was doing as he quickly ducked behind a curtain by the lobby door. He emerged with bottled water which he handed off to a grateful me.

One item for the to-do list: Write a positive TripAdvisor review of the Sorrento Hotel.


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Winding down and eating out

All wound up as the racing season comes to a close

Dropping my mileage in preparation for my last “serious” race of the training cycle on Sunday, June 10th gave me a bit more flexibility to get out and about, and enjoy some good eats. Last Tuesday, I ran earlier than I have for a long while, leaving the house at 5:45 a.m. to run with a friend. This worked out well as I had a 7:30 a.m. breakfast meeting at Fran’s where I was pleased to order a breakfast favourite of mine, corn beef hash.

Fran’s corn beef hash

On Wednesday, I had a short meeting downtown to which I cycled and on the return journey to the office stopped to enjoy an excellent Korean meal of bulgogi and rice at a food vendor on Dundas, just east of Bathurst. This food stall stopover was like a “taste of Portland”, a teaser for our upcoming holiday to Portland, Oregon.

Kim’s a la Kart – Portland style vendors on Dundas east of Bathurst

Portland is famous for its street vendor food stalls, distinguishing itself from other U.S. cities with its absence of fast food venues in the downtown core. I’m reminded of another Portland food memory, the corn beef hash at Kenny and Zuke’s deli! A photo of this breakfast was part of my blog post I Think My Bathroom Scale is Broken which got freshly pressed last year leading to over 2000 hits in on day one and over 1000 hits on day two.

On Thursday, I ran with a new friend from Iran who has a black belt in Judo. He is staying 2K away from Lake Ontario but had never seen the lake, so to the lake we ran. That afternoon I took my dad and son out to lunch at the Osgoode Hall Restaurant and enjoyed a very reasonably priced lunch of Arctic char.

My son and my dad at Osgoode Hall Restaurant

My dad had only been here once before for an event for the Japanese Canadian community where traditional big-sound taiko drummers performed on their mega drums. He told us that the vibrations from the pre-dinner performance loosened the accumulated century plus, dirt from the paneled wood ceiling and peppered their meals with some very aged seasoning.

Oyster Caesar

That night we belatedly celebrated our wedding anniversary at Lee’s Restaurant. I chose Thursday rather than Friday as I wanted to avoid alcohol two nights before my 5K race on Sunday. Deep sleep two nights before a race is important in order to be at your best on race day. While a glass of wine might make you sleepy, the bottom line is that it adversely affects your REM sleep. I enjoyed an oyster Caesar while my husband’s salute to me was to drink two Japanese tequilas.  The dish to order at Lee’s is Susur Lee’s signature Singaporean cole slaw which is absolutely unique, scrumptious and healthy!

Singaporean cole slaw, a must!

Race day was very warm and the sky had a smoggy hue. I opted for a warm-up routine that included a 10 minute run, 3 hours before the race start. The benefit of this early morning jog is that it loosens you up and allows you to  get a good stretch earlier on. It also helps to alleviate pre-race jitters and anxiety about getting a full warm-up in later on. While warming up on a side-street near the race start I ran into a former teammate who I had not seen for a few years and learned that his wife had died five months ago.

Shortly after this emotional moment I found myself in a stand-off with a fellow participant. A group of older (well that being my age actually) female recreational runners were positioned at the very front of the start line and it sounded like the goal for one of them was to simply finish her first 5K race. I politely mentioned the pace I was intending to run and asked if they would mind if I moved in front of them. One of the women was obviously unaware of race etiquette and let me know that they had done their “due diligence” in arriving early and based on the first-come, first-served principle of a grocery check-out  line were entitled to be at the front. I tried to explain that for the safety and enjoyment of all, race line-ups are organized by pace.  My husband says I should have just moved in front of their group rather than trying to be polite and explain. Comments?

A meal prepared for us by our son

I could feel a bit of an adrenalin rush from this exchange and mentally directed it to my race and let go of any negative thoughts. Inwardly I wished them a happy race but realized that if I were to verbalize this, they would probably think I was being sarcastic.

I ran a good steady-hard pace throughout and was satisfied with my time of 21:56 at the Toronto Challenge 5K on a muggy, hot day. The route was changed from last year and I noticed that times were much slower than 2011. One friend wondered if the course might have been long by 400 meters. It was not an ideal course to run a season’s best but psychologically it felt shorter than the many-cornered 5K I ran the week before. The course had only four turns. For me the main factors in falling short of my time were ideal racing weight, the heat and a need for more speed-endurance, tempo training. I still hope to go under 20 minutes but I can see it will take a lot of focus, along with more mileage while maintaining the quality speedwork I’ve been doing since February. With my plan to run a marathon in the fall, my fast 5K may have to wait until next spring.

A basil and tiny tomato quiche baked by me for a group of dedicated volunteers at my workplace

About that marathon – well I’m in the process of setting my goal and considering that of going under 3:30 which according to the age-graded calculator is a 2:41 open-category equivalent for someone who on October 14th, marathon day, will be two days away from turning *57*. Egads, I don’t really like the sound of that number. I’m a person who generally likes the idea of five-year plans but now that they take me to age 62 I find myself wanting to put a pause on long-term planning.

Anyhow, my winter-spring race season is finito! And it’s time to look ahead to late-summer and fall races. I’m in much better shape than I was last June so that makes me feel motivated and excited about summer training. But first there is a bit of down-time to take (no speedwork) and holiday time to enjoy.

What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step.
C. S. Lewis


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In pursuit of a fast 5K

Pity the man, who must console the racer, faced with a disappointing race, morphing from his role of  Sherpa into that of sports psychologist afterward. Such was my husband’s lot as I was thwarted in my quest to go under 21 minutes for 5K. Buoyed by a 21:04 on March 31st, I set my sights on breaking 21 minutes in the short-term and am hoping that my 50-something legs might still carry me to run under 20 minutes – just once more is all I ask.

My Sherpa takes great photos too!

As I stood waiting for the race I gathered my thoughts, meditating on my good fortune on being able to set ambitious race goals although, what I might like to call ‘prayer”, in the context of the quest for fast times, seems suspiciously closer to a less mature desire for wish fulfillment.

Prior to the race, I gave the course 8.0 points on a 10 point rating scale for fast courses. Memory however did not serve me well as a decade later, I’ve downgraded m  its rating to a 6.0.  My time was 22:14 seconds at the Bread & Honey 5K.

Here are four things that were different from my last 5K and what I think it cost me in time . . .

  • Last race, I was very pleased with my evenly paced effort, aided by my watch and the kilometer markers. Yesterday my watch malfunctioned and I could not gauge my effort (+15 seconds)
  • Last race the course was out and back with the turnaround being a gentle curve, similar to the curve of 400 meter track. Yesterday there were eight sharp corners on the course (+16 seconds)
  • Last race the course was pancake flat. Yesterdays course was not hilly but rolling and not at all flat  (+20 seconds)
  • Last race I was four pounds lighter. According to Tom Osler every pound above your ideal running weight will cost you 2 seconds per mile so 2 seconds times 4 pounds is 8 seconds times 3 miles . . .  (+24 seconds)

I made these time estimates off the top of my head and was surprised when I did the calculations, that the total of 75 seconds, when subtracted from 22:14 equals, 20:59. WooHoo . . . I know I can do it!  It is said that high performance athletes internalize good results, and externalize bad results 🙂

For the record, I am 5 feet 1 1/2 inches and currently weight 111 pounds. My ideal racing weight is between 104 and 107 pounds and according to some medical charts, 107.5 pounds is the perfect weight for someone of my height. When I was a child we had the World Book Encyclopedia’s Childcraft series. Part of the series was a parent’s guide to child development with a chart of height-weight ratios. I studied this chart intently, obsessively in fact and was troubled that I never made it into the low end of the chart through childhood. I was that girl who disappeared when I turned sideways and I never did break the 100 pound barrier while in high school. At age 56, I’m no longer complaining about having good genetics for distance running.

As for the good habit of running, I expect to have more to say about that once I finish “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. I picked this book up yesterday afternoon and am halfway through its 350+ pages.

You can hear the audio interview with Charles Duhigg that piqued my curiosity HERE at Great Work Interviews.

Candid Camera –  à la Sherpa – Napping, a GOOD post-race HABIT