November 19, 2009

Press & Promotion for Book press release
Coolrunning Australia press release
ironguides newsletter
Canadian Running magazine website
Pacelinecoaching website
Squamish weekly newspaper
The Chronicle newspaper

November 06, 2009

My First Book is Published

My first book Running Shoes Are a Girl's Best Friend is finally finished and published, after nearly two years of hard work.

November 03, 2009

A Writer's High

That's certainly what I am on right now: I have finished the book about female runners that I have been working on since January 2008. It was a huge project which has transformed me as a writer, not unlike a runner is by finishing their first marathon.

Now I need to get the 89,000-word manuscript published and have submitted it to a company I believe is a good fit. Word either way should come within five business days.

October 27, 2009

A PB by 19 seconds

At the James Cunningham Seawall 9.5km this past Sunday I finished in 38:15, placing second in my age group and 8th female. This race attracts some swift runners.

The course around Stanley Park is - naturally - stunning. It's also flat.

My finish time is a 19-second improvement on my performance there in 2007, which is promising - especially because that 2007 race was followed by a couple of major 10km PBs including breaking the 40-minute barrier twice.

The organisation of this race is fantastic. As I crossed the finishline, the MC told the crowd that I was in the top 10 for the third year in a row. Pretty impressive that they are so prepared to have this information at their fingertips. There are much bigger races who could learn a thing or two from these guys.

As I hung on to a fence just across the finish to catch my breath the organiser came over to me and thanked me for supporting the race. You can bet I'll be back there to race again next year!

October 22, 2009

Planning Race Season

I love race planning. Usually I plan four to six months ahead. In the past four years my goal events have been marathons. While I never stop training, aside from about a two-week break after a marathon (typically I do two of those per year), I make sure that I allow for unstructured training if my mind needs a break.

As mentioned in previous posts that is what I did this summer. After racing two marathons close together, finishing both in 3hrs 10mins, I needed a physical and mental rest from my training routine.

With a book and articles to write, starting a new part-time job, a puppy to train, two art shows to coordinate and a few more to participate in, overseas visitors for three months straight and a partner who was training for Ironman on top of working full time, I knew I didn't have enough time in my schedule to prepare for a fall marathon.

Instead, I just ran as I pleased for two months before setting this Sunday's 9.5km race as my goal event and asking my coach Pat Carroll for a training program focused on this.

I really enjoyed having a program again, as much as I enjoyed not having one for a few weeks too. I want to know that my training is focused, that I am training as efficiently as I can and that I am not overtraining and risking injury (never any guarantees).

The best thing about having a training program designed for me specifically by someone I respect and trust completely is that it takes all the guess work and thinking out of it. All I need to do every day is to open up my spreadsheet to see what session he wants me to do - then I do it.

If he wants me to run as hard as I can I do. If he wants me to take a rest day I do so too. If there is only an easy run then I do that. I have wondered whether it is time to change coaches, just for variety and because I have been with Pat for 4 1/2 years. But so far I haven't.

He always manages to put enough variety in my training programs - I love them. He challenges me but also provides enough recovery so that I do not feel stressed, mentally or physically. While training for a marathon is tiring, I have been able to cope with his sessions and been able to stay healthy - that is the most important thing of all.

All the above means that I trust my coach completely. And each time I wonder if I should check if the grass is greener on the other side, I realize that my side is probably as green as it gets.

With my goal race only a few days away Pat doesn't like me to think about the day, let alone weeks and months after. And I will not think about anything else in the next few days. But in the last few weeks the thought of running another marathon kept crossing my mind.

To have a solid and focused marathon preparation I like to start at least five months out. With the Vancouver Marathon, my logical `home-town' race, on the first weekend of May it was time to consider my options.

For the past couple of years I have toyed with the idea of running a marathon in The Netherlands where I was born and raised. While I have raced everything from 5k's to half marathons as well as triathlons ranging from Olympic distance to 3/4 Ironman distances in The Netherlands, I have yet to race my first marathon there.

Perhaps I could combine a family visit with a marathon. I found a great flight, direct, in early April - perfect timing for the Rotterdam Marathon, which bills itself as the second-fast marathon in the world.

Having lived in Rotterdam for a while in the early 90s, I would love to revisit this city and see it in a different way. Registration only starts at the end of the month. I haven't been able to find any details on their site, such as what time the race starts or how much it costs. But if all goes well I think the Rotterdam Marathon 2010 will be my next goal race.

That will determine my training from next week until the end of April (including recovery). I will probably try to find a 10km and half marathon in between - in consultation with Pat of course.

For now, I need to focus on Sunday. Today's session is a speed session, alternating two minutes of hard running with 30 seconds easy (six repeats).

October 21, 2009

Long Time No Blog...

It has been a while since I posted on this blog. That doesn't mean I stopped writing, running or painting. On the contrary, it's because I have been very busy with those and a few other things that I haven't made the time to write new posts.

Today is Wednesday - a few days to go until my next race, the 9.5km in Stanley Park. This is a special race to me. It was the first race I did when Tim and I arrived back in Canada two years ago with the intention to stay. After an exciting tussle with a final sprint to the line, I just finished third female in a time that I was quite happy with.

This result also handed me my first invitation to race in the event the following year. That I did, but after finishing the Victoria Marathon in a PB two weeks prior I had to take it easy. This year I am back to race hard and I am looking forward to it!

August 14, 2009

Iron Man cover story for IMPACT Magazine

IMPACT Magazine's editor asked me to write the cover story for the current issue, a profile on Ironman World Champion Craig Alexander. Assignments like these sum up why I truly love being a journalist and a writer.

Here's the result, as published on their website (there's also a print version).

August 11, 2009

Runner's Block

As I am working towards finishing my first book - as always I am a little ambitious so I am working on three books simultaneously - I have sought the support of other writers by reading their books.

Six weeks ago I happened upon a book by Julia Cameron, The Sound of Paper: Starting from Scratch. Coincidence that my eye caught that book at the time and place that it did? I doubt it - I had been looking a long time for what I found, which is what I realized when I came home and started reading her book.

Cameron is the author of The Artist's Way, one of the bestsellers she wrote and one that I am now reading. But it was the Sound of Paper that I truly fell in love with. I started reading it on July 2.

One of her three main recommendations for artists is that you write three pages longhand as soon as you wake up, every single day. She calls them Morning Pages. You can write anything, as long as you write those three pages. It could be, "I feel tired and don't have any ideas for writing today. I need to walk the dog."

The idea is that, in Julia's words:
"Morning Pages prioritize our day. ... Morning Pages are a potent form of meditation for hyperactive Westerners. They amplify what spiritual seekers call "the still small voice". Work with the Morning Pages awakens our intuition. Synchronicity becomes a daily fact. We are more and more often in the right place at the right time. We know how to handle situations that baffled us. In a very real sense, we become our own friend and witness. Morning pages are the gateway to the inner and higher self. They bring us guidance and resilience. They make us farseeing."

Following her advice immediately I began writing three pages of longhand on July 3 the first thing in the morning, and I have been doing so every day since. It has helped me in my `true' writing.

In fact I have been far more consistent in my writing than I have been in my running. Partly it has been because I had mentally agreed with myself that running had to take a backseat, because of some other things I had to do including coordinating two art exhibitions and exhibiting my own paintings in three but also because I felt the need to lay low in my running for a few more weeks after my two recent marathons.

On Sunday August 2, I ran a certified 10km race here in Squamish. My plan had been to go out hard, and to hold on to that pace as long as I could. My first kilometer was 3:50, my second 3:55 and my third 4:00. I reached the 5km mark at 20:11, before finishing in 41:39.

I received a beautiful trophy, a carving by Neil Baker, for being the first local female runner to cross the finish line. I had not raced too smart, pushing myself hard in the first half and struggling to hold on to a slowing pace in the second. It was hot and humid, close to 30 degrees and I felt extremely tired in the two following days.

So I didn't run. And soon it was Friday - I hadn't run for five days. Now that's fine after a marathon but you do not need to recover five days after a 10km. I knew it was time to get back on a structured training program.

I decided to keep it simple and set myself one goal, the 9.5km race in Stanley Park, Vancouver, at the end of October. I emailed my coach with that goal and he responded with a 12-week training program. I did my first session today, a speed workout.

It feels great to be back into my running habit!

July 03, 2009

Ironman just is everywhere

With two Ironman triathletes, who are both eight weeks away from racing another Ironman, in the house the word Ironman comes up as often as it has in this sentence. It is amazing how much can be discussed about Ironman training and racing.

And as a retired Ironman I can't help but be swept up in the excitement too. So much that I was enticed to join Tony and Tim for my first wetsuit swim since March 2005 - that's right more than four years since I last wore that sleeveless piece of rubber.

We went to Alice Lake, just north of Squamish. This lake is also used for the swim of the Squamish Triathlon, in which Tony is competing this Sunday. The water is as green as the trees that surround it and the temperature was absolutely perfect.

The race course, which is 1.5km, runs along two-thirds of a triangle shape. I freestyled and breaststroked my way through about 700 metres, while the two guys swam about 1.2 km.

They are both solid swimmers, with Tony usually doing the 3.8km in Ironman in less than 60 minutes and Tim just over. My best time for the distance is 1:13 which I swam in the last of the five Ironman I have done in - March 2005.

July 02, 2009

One more Ironman in the house

As many runners do, I ventured into triathlon. I did my first triathlon race in June 1999, a month after I ran my first marathon. A year later I moved from Toronto, Canada, to Sydney, Australia - the land of triathlon. Almost immediately I signed up for my first half Ironman and didn't have too much trouble roping Tim into it.

Very underprepared we both finished that race, and enjoyed it enough to do a second one two months later. By then Tim had suggested we needed to look for a coach. And at the start of 2001 we started training with triathlon coach and triathlete extraordinaire John Hill.

John is an elite age-group triathlete who has done dozens of Ironmans including many Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, the holy grail of distance triathlon. He trains with the athletes he coaches and is very serious about the sport, both as an athlete and as a coach.

His group of athletes changes but invariably attracts high-achieving athletes. Some have joined him as beginners and are now professional triathletes. Others are like himself, elite amateur athletes, and some just like to finish that Ironman or improve their previous time.

I trained with John for 4 1/2 years, and he coached me to five Ironman finishes, a 3/4 Ironman, a dozen half Ironmans, and numerous other shorter triathlons. I learnt a lot from him, lessons that I still apply in my marathon running today. Tim trained with him longer but has switched to a new coach this year.

During our time training with John's group we met some great people on early morning rides, runs and swims. Triathlon attracts a wide array of people with one main thing in common: we all love a good challenge.

Over the years that we trained with John and his evolving group in the eastern suburbs of Sydney, we met people that have since become our best friends. One them was Tony, nicknamed Dingo.

Dingo has been doing triathlons for more than 15 years and is now training for his 10th Ironman - the race he's chosen is Ironman Canada, which Tim is also preparing for. Dingo's partner Gina, one of my best friends, has also signed up - it will be her third Ironman.

Dingo had some long-service leave up his sleeve and decided to spend part of that training and racing in British Columbia, moving in with us for two months. Those two months started yesterday, as I picked him up from Vancouver airport with a bike bag, a big duffel and a small backpack.

So here I am, living with not one but two Ironman training for their goal race of the season which is now only eight weeks away. As I type, the two of them are on their bikes checking out the course of the Squamish Triathlon, which Dingo is racing this Sunday.

Gina will join us in seven weeks. But until then, it's me, a puppy and two Ironmen - someone help me.

June 23, 2009

The 100 push-up challenge

As I was reading through the Australian coolrunning pages I came across a post that captured my attention: 100 push-ups.

I learnt to do push-ups only a few years ago, and was able to a set of 20 some time in late 2004/early 2005. Since then I've only been doing them haphazardly so now I can do only 8-10 before collapsing.

Inspired by a strength set that Ironguides coach Kristian Manietta, who helped me with a 2 1/2 week training program to prepare me for running a second marathon within five weeks from a previous one, I had been thinking about getting back into some kind push-up regiume.

I've had the dream to drop down and do a set of 50 one day. So naturally when I spotted a program that says it can get you ready for 100 push-ups I was intrigued.

I did my initial test this weekend, making it to eight push-ups (partly because our puppy Luka started eating my hair but I doubt I would have made it much beyond that number anyway). So yesterday I started on day 1 of this program.

I think it is a great challenge, and several girlfriends decided to (re)start it too. One friend does regular bootcamps, besides running. She's able to 25 to 30 without a problem - that already sounds pretty cool to me!

Alright, GI Jane arms here we come!

June 11, 2009

"Marathoner Breaks Record"

The Chief, a weekly newspaper in Squamish, wrote a story about my race which is currently the lead story on their website. Pretty cool.

Click here to see the article

June 08, 2009

Marathon win

Yesterday I won my first marathon, leading the female pack from start to finish and set a course record in the process.

The North Olympic Discovery Marathon is not only in a spectacular area, the race is superbly organized and has amazing volunteers. I would highly recommend you consider adding this race, with various distances to choose from, to your 2010 race schedule.

For a story in the Peninsula Daily News, see here

May 22, 2009

Marathon experiment

Sometimes it takes a good friend to make a suggestion that seems crazy at first, before you realize she's absolutely right.

As I have mentioned on this blog, I was determined to celebrate my result at the 2009 Vancouver Marathon - no matter the statistical outcome. My race went very well, and I felt great. While my time was at least three minutes short of my goal, I placed in a marathon top 10 for the first time which made me pretty happy.

Even so, I couldn't help but feel a bit disappointed. I first ran 3:08:48 in the Canberra marathon in April 2007, claiming a PB of more than 4 minutes. It's now two years later and I've only managed to improve my marathon time by 1 minute and 29 seconds.

It's all about the journey - BUT I had expected to be a sub 3:05 marathoner by now. My good friend is a professional triathlete now. We first met in a triathlon group we were both training with. Back then she had just gotten into triathlon as a hobby, and I had yet to run my first sub-4 marathon.

She's an amazing athlete, who has grown from an age group into one of the fastest distance triathletes racing today in just a few years. Her dedication to the sport and improving her performance are second to none and inspiring to say the least.

When I told her about my Vancouver Marathon, and that I was wondering whether I had the time and energy to train for the Victoria Marathon in October, she suggested I should run another marathon SOON, and she meant real soon because I felt I had fallen short of my goal.

After my initial reaction which was that her idea seemed crazy, I gave it more thought. After she is someone who not only talks the talk but has definitely walked the walk. The idea started to grow on me - enough to start trawling through North American race calendars for a marathon within driving distance and within the next two months.

I found two options, one on June 7, and one on July 4. And after asking her husband, a certified coach and an elite amateur athlete, for advice he suggested I take the June 7 option and also offered to guide my preparations for the race.

So here I am, with a great 2 1/2 week training program focused on quality workouts (the quantity has been taking care of for sure in the past five months) and a commitment to racing the June 7 marathon.

While I have checked all the practicalities about getting to the race (a cross-border drive and a ferry trip), entering the race, the course, and accommodation for potentially two people and a dog (Tim's not sure he will come) I haven't yet signed up for the race or reserved accommodation - mostly because I don't want to commit the money yet.

After all, running a marathon only five weeks after the previous one to improve on a pretty decent performance is not in line with conventional running wisdom. But keeping in mind that I didn't go completely all out in my previous marathon, the fact that I seemed to have had a quick recovery (the first time I had zero issues going down stairs in the days following a marathon) and that I've felt pretty perky in my five training runs so far since this race all bode well.

It is an experiment - and should be fun!

Happy sponsor

New York-based SBR Multisports has provided my race gear for the 2009 season, including race top, number belt and visor - very comfortable and high-quality stuff!

May 16, 2009

What's next?

That's the big question. It's been 14 days since the marathon and I have not touched my running shoes since. Yet my recovery has been the most active ever, with a five-month-old energetic puppy that needs to be walked three times a day.

I've been hesitant about deciding on my races for the next six months for a few reasons, and they have little to do with running.

A. The puppy requires a lot of attention which is simply a priority at the moment and requires a time and energy commitment

B. A partner who is training for Ironman Canada, scheduled for late August, on top of working full-time

C. My commitments as a volunteer for VISUALS, a group of visual artists in Squamish, which consists of coordinating publicity and marketing as well as coordinating two exhibitions, both held in the June/July/August period; time to paint as I am participating in three exhibitions this summer, and one in winter.

D. The arrival of two great friends from Australia - one arrives on July 1 and will live with us for two months while training for numerous triathlons, and his partner joins us in mid-August. Tim and our friends will race Ironman Canada, while Luka and I will be cheering them on

E. On top of that, and this should actually be listed as my No. 1 goal, is my work on completing a book that I have been writing and rewriting for 18 months now.

So, while I can and will make the time to train for races, I am wondering if I am able to make the mental and physical commitment required to run a marathon PB this year. The one I'd most like to do because I loved the race last year is the Victoria Marathon.

However that race is held on the same day as the Ironman Triathlon World Championships in Hawaii which if all goes according to plan Tim will qualify for. That would mean we would be in Hawaii instead of Vancouver Island on the weekend of the Victoria Marathon. But we won't know for sure until the end of August.

Perhaps the answer is to pick another marathon earlier or later this year, or to simply focus on racing 10k's and half marathons in the next six months. I am hoping the answer will come to me soon. I'll definitely go for my first run in two weeks tomorrow - nice and easy.

May 15, 2009

Article in the local newspaper

The Chief, the Squamish weekly newspaper, ran an article on some of the local runners in the Vancouver Marathon including me.

To read the online version, click here

The print version also ran the picture, as taken by Tim, that is on this blog.

May 11, 2009

Turns out I was 9th in Vancouver Marathon

My certificate says I was 9th female in the Vancouver marathon, instead of 10th as it seemed. Don't ask me why or how, but see here

As you can also see I was second in my age group, which would have given me a prize package and trophy. Unfortunately I didn't think about any awards after the race and wasn't able to stay anyway because our puppy had had more than enough excitement for the day.

May 04, 2009

Top 10 in Vancouver Marathon

Sometimes the hardest thing after a race is to be happy and satisfied. I ran the BMO Vancouver Marathon yesterday, it was my 10th marathon and my sixth marathon that I finished in 3:15 or faster. I’ve run 3:13 (Gold Coast in July 2006), 3:08 (Canberra in April 2007), 3:15 (Gold Coast in July 2007), 3:12 (Vancouver in May 2008), 3:07 (Victoria in October 2008) and 3:10 (Vancouver in May 2009).

While that is a record I am really happy with, it’s also something I’d really like to improve upon. I simply want to run a marathon faster than I already have and I am convinced that I can. How much faster, I am not sure. My ultimate goal is to finish a marathon in less than three hours. That’s a stretch but unless I try, I’d always wonder if I could have.

My goal yesterday was to make every step the best it could possibly be. During the race I felt that I achieved that. My coach Pat Carroll had sent me a good luck message the day before the race, reminding to “Run smart/Run tough”. During the first 30km I repeated the Run smart often to myself, by allowing myself to settle into the first 5km and by holding back slightly on every uphill before using the free speed on the downhill.

Many people start their marathon too fast- and I'd made a point of starting this one slow and easy. I had missed the 1km-marker along the course but heard the 3:15-pacer ask his runners if anyone had got that split. A woman responded 4:37 - whoops that was 12 seconds slower than my target pace - but it was also a really nice and relaxed start to the race. I sped up slightly – and ended up at 5km in a time of 22:31, about 26 seconds slower than planned but I was OK with that.

I felt relaxed and very comfortable. And that sums up the rest of my race for the largest part - relaxed and comfortably uncomfortable. My time was 3:10:19, good for a top 10 spot, my first in a marathon and fitting for my 10th marathon run 10 years after my first.

While I have to be happy with such a solid result, I also want more, better, and faster. But first I am going to relax for a couple of weeks - our puppy Luka will guarantee that my recovery will be very active.

April 30, 2009

April 29, 2009

More about tapers and puppies

After months of training for the Vancouver Marathon – set for Sunday with 13 competitors from Squamish – I was about to start my taper. That's when volume and intensity drop significantly – in my case from an average of eight hours a week to three - to allow the body time to rest and recover before a key race.

Not only is the taper a great excuse to be lazy after months of hard work, it is also crucial to a good performance in the marathon.

While a good taper - ie plenty of rest mentally and physically - doesn’t guarantee a good marathon, a bad taper guarantees a bad marathon. This marathon will be my 10th and I’m aiming to finish in less than 3 hours 7 minutes. Every Sunday morning over the past four months I either pounded the pavement in Squamish for up to three hours, or the treadmill at Club Flex, followed by a 30-minute run in the afternoon.

During the week I ran another four days including two speed sessions – the latter best summed up as short and painful - and did two hours of weight training.

I truly love running and the resulting feeling of fitness and wellbeing. My partner Tim, a triathlete training for Ironman Canada, and I had talked about getting a dog one day, and more seriously since settling in Squamish last September.

Our search started at the BC SPCA website which has a wealth of information – including up-to-date postings of adoptable dogs and other animals. Our preference was to adopt a dog from the Squamish branch. And we didn’t have to wait long.

Four weeks ago, one puppy photo made my heart jump. Two days later Tim and I met this four-month-old guy, likely a Border collie and Labrador retriever mix. We liked him instantly – partly because of his high energy – but took another four days to consider the responsibilities and time commitment involved. After a second meeting, we filled out the adoption papers and brought Luka home on April 12.

It was good that we liked his energy because he has plenty of it - testing our limits. I had registered to race the Vancouver Sun Run 10km but after the work involved in housetraining, caring for and bonding with Luka during the first week I was too exhausted to even make it to the startline.

As first-time dog owners we also realized within days that we needed more help than that offered by our dog-loving families and friends. Squamish-based professional dog trainer Tiffany Wall has since provided invaluable advice during three one-on-one sessions, one late-night phone call and two puppy classes. Luka’s immediate response to our new skills is a testament to those of Tiffany.

This week Tim has taken care of Luka’s exercise needs, allowing me to focus on my final race preparations including rest. While this taper may not have been as quiet as it needed to be, our new puppy has definitely been worth it.

Luka will come to watch Sunday’s marathon with Tim as it is great for his socialization. And once he's a bit older, he’ll probably make a great running partner.

April 27, 2009

Pre-Marathon Week

Six days until race day!

Rest is crucial. Tim is taking care of Luka's morning walks and other activities until noon. While I love our puppy, he takes a lot of mental and physical energy which I need to preserve this week. (After the marathon, I will focus on Luka while Tim prepares for Ironman Canada held in August).

My race plan is decided. Coach Pat Carroll agreed that I can aim for a PB this Sunday: that means my goal is to finish in 3:07:09 or faster. I will target to run about 4:25 per kilometre or 7:06 per mile, which would get me across the finish line in 3:06:22.

I've only raced twice in the past four months, a 10km and a half marathon. While I had planned - and registered for - the Vancouver Sun Run 10km held a week ago, the work that came with a new puppy had both Tim and I absolutely exhausted. On race day our alarm went off at 5:15am.

I worried that racing when already exhausted might jeopardize my health - and therefore my goal race the Vancouver Marathon. While a tough call, I decided to stay in bed to get extra sleep and skip the race.

I've felt tired during my training runs over the last two weeks, in large part due to the mental and physical energy required for our new puppy. So this week I really need to focus on rest.

Tomorrow I will do the final test of my race outfit - my new sponsor New York-based SBR Multisport has sent me a race top. I've already run with it twice and it is extremely comfortable. The final thing I need to test is whether the two backpockets comfortably hold the 10 gels I plan to carry with me in the marathon.

Nutrition is absolutely crucial in the marathon. After racing nine marathons, a couple of ultras, and five Ironman triathlons, my nutrition plan has been well developed. My breakfast consists of two Powerbars, eaten two hours before the race at the latest. I will drink about 750ml of water before the race and also have my usual morning coffee.

I will take water from each aid station, and start taking my gels about 45-60 minutes into the race. From then, I will take a Powerbar gel every 15-20 minutes. Like last year, I hope to put a bottle of Red Bull at the Special Needs aid station at around 30km. It feels good knowing that it is there should I need it. Caffeine really helps me focus my tired mind during those final painful kilometres of the marathon.

Tim and our puppy Luka will be there to cheer me on.

The current weather forecast for Sunday is a 70 percent chance of rain, with temperatures between 7 and 15 degrees.

Today I will drive to North Vancouver for an Active Release Technique session with a therapist I've seen before. I'll ask her to focus on releasing my hips and if time permits my calves.

On Thursday I will drive to downtown Vancouver to pick up my race package.

Other than that, as mentioned the key is rest. I will also sharpen my mental preparation. With this marathon being my sixth since April 2006, my mind is fully focused on this distance. Even so, I really need to visualize this particular race over the next few days and get fully focused on May 3.

I will also carefully monitor my hydration and nutrition this week, especially the final four days before the race. Plenty of water and my favourite energy drink mix are important, as are foods that I know will gel with my stomach.

April 24, 2009

April 23, 2009

About tapers and puppies

Tim and I adopted a puppy from the local SPCA and named him Luka. Based on his teeth, he's estimated to be about four months old. Best guesses from the SPCA, vet and a dog trainer is that he's got some border collie, lab retriever and pointer in him.

We brought him home only 12 days ago and what a time it has been since then. Even though we thought - and even were told - that our preparations were solid, we underestimated what it means to adopt a puppy - especially one that has the energy levels that this guy does.

We're lucky in many ways. Luka is absolutely adorable. He has a ton of energy, is excited about everything that is going on, and is very affectionate. He seems to have been very well socialized to people and dogs, as in that he's curious and excited to meet both.

He was already used to being in a crate at night and for periods during the day. As a high-energy puppy he does not yet know it's OK to have a nap when he is tired. So we put him in his crate during the day in between regular walks and playtime in the backyard. He usually protests for about two seconds before passing out on his back with his paws in the air.

He was not yet house-trained and peed to his heart's content in our family room during the first afternoon. With help of the crate, tight supervision and very frequent pee breaks with lots of praise for doing so outside he has learned very quickly that inside isn't the place to lift his leg.

Luka is a quick learner in many respects. And he forced us to be quick learners too. Like most puppies he loves to bite. We tried the yelping, and walking away from him to teach him biting isn't a good thing. But his biting - along with jumping and humping - is also a manifestation of his attempts to dominate us.

With the help of a local dog trainer, we got in touch with our Alpha side and have adopted a zero-tolerance to his biting. And this has improved his behavior markedly in the last few days. As Cesar Millan recommends: exercise - discipline - affection.

He gets plenty of exercise, and we have now also learned skills that help to teach him discipline in a positive and encouraging way.

As for affection, Luka absolutely loves to cuddle, belly rubs or any rubs really.
He'll sit on your lap while he's playing with his bone, Kong or other toys.

April 12, 2009

Three Weeks to Go

I had company for the first two hours of my final long run before the Vancouver Marathon.
Our neighbour Paul took Tim and I on a run along some of the many trails of Squamish.

Because of the rain we stayed mostly on wider trails to avoid slippery rocks and roots. The last section that got us back into Valleycliffe has narrower trails and we had to pay a bit more attention to our footing. It's a great loop, with fantastic views.

I ran the last 45 minutes on my own, feeling very happy with my preparations for the race. Next week I am running a 10k, the Vancouver Sun Run. I haven't done this race before and am curious to see what it's like.

Like Sydney's City to Surf, this race draws tens of thousands of participants. Last year there were 59,000. The following Sunday I have an easy 90-minute run.

My main speed sessions until the marathon will obviously be the 10km, and a 3km time trail this Tuesday.

Mentally and physically I feel very ready for the marathon. I will sharpen my mental race focus in the next three weeks.

Next weekend two good friends are set to race in the Canberra marathon. For one, it's his first although he has race many triathlons, including Ironman, and other running distances. For the other one, running marathons each year is simply part of her life.

Thinking about them racing next weekend is a great mental warm-up for my own race. I'm very excited for them.

March 30, 2009

Hitting the Dirt

I was a bit in a rush on Friday. After spending my first hours of the day writing and rewriting as usual I wanted to do my training before meeting an artist for an interview.

My speed session was 5 repeats of 1km. The goal my coach has set me was 3:39. To do this session properly requires focus instead of a mind thinking about other things. I also did this session on a stretch where I have run many times before but never for speed.

The road has a few uneven parts with plenty of potholes. But it's the closest flat 1k stretch and that's why I chose it for that session.

Unfortunately my lack of focus coupled with some bad luck had me trip over an uneven part of the road. I lost my balance and hit the dirt pretty hard. With scrapes on the palms of my hands and on both my knees my speed session was over before I even had finished my first repeat.

Upset, I limped to the car and drove home. Aside from the issue of getting the dirt from the wounds, it seems I've been relatively lucky. And I even made it to the interview, albeit in shorts and with a bloody knee.

I decided to forgo my Saturday training as well. But yesterday I was able to complete my fourth 3-hour training run, and the easy 30-minute session in the afternoon. I'm happy this has happened with plenty of time to heal before the Vancouver Marathon, and reminded me that I need to pay attention - especially in speed sessions.

March 16, 2009

Third 3-Hour Training Run

Yesterday I did my third three-hour training run in as many weeks.

Unusually I had company during the first 50 minutes as Tim ran with me. He has been sick and so had to run easy. That meant I started my run easier than I usually do - and it probably was a good thing.

It was nice to run together at an easy pace and chat. When Tim turned around I put on my iPod and settled in for the remaining 2 hours and 10 minutes. I was about five minutes behind on my usual pace and that was OK. Long runs are all about time on your feet, rather than about speed.

Because of that relatively easy pace for the first 90 minutes I had plenty of energy. I suspected that I'd run a bit quicker on the way home, so I turned around at 92 minutes (two minutes extra on my way out should mean I'd arrive at home in 3 hours and 4 minutes if I ran the same course back at the same pace).

I'd already picked up my pace slightly and was really enjoying my run, especially with the knowledge that I was on the home stretch - even if that was still more than 80 minutes away.

Then ... I spotted a runner ahead of me. The runner was too far away to determine whether it was a he or a she or even what direction the person was running. And even though long runs are not about speed, I couldn't help myself - I sped up.

I felt the need to try to get closer. And it seemed like I was but the runner was still far away until the runner slowed to a walk, and then stopped for a break by the side of the road. So I was chasing a guy. Because of his stop, I'd gotten a lot closer when he resumed his run. And all I could think about now was passing him.

I was still running at a reasonably comfortable pace, but faster than before. I was slowly reeling him in - it wasn't so much about catching him per se, as it was a mental way for me to focus. This is exactly what I - and probably most runners - do in races. Focusing on catching the person in front of you - while running at a realistic pace - is such a great way to concentrate.

Focusing on finding the happy medium between catching him and making sure I wasn't running too fast for my long run speed was a great way to occupy my mind. When I passed him, we exchanged greetings, and I checked my watch again I'd been running for 117 minutes.

And soon I found myself at the point where it would take me 35 minutes to run home - except I'd actually picked up my pace that I had a little over 40 minutes of running left to do. My mental games of catching the other runner had me run a lot faster and I expected to pay for it now.

By now, I'd relaxed my pace a bit and to my surprise I actually felt great. I had to do an extra loop near my house to ensure I'd run for the full three hours. That means I ran the second half of my session at least 5 minutes faster than the first.

It was only in the final five minutes of my run that my muscles started protesting, and on any 3-hour run that seems negligible. So I finished this long run on a great high. I now have an easy week, with reduced volume and without speed sessions.

Next Sunday's long run is only two hours - what a treat. And then I can't wait to do my two remaining three-hour training sessions. I'm starting to get pretty excited about the Vancouver Marathon.

March 12, 2009

Book: I Run Therefore I am ... Nuts

I Run Therefore I am ... Nuts!: Why we carbo load, fartlek train, hit the wall ... and love every minute of it by Bob Schwartz

This book had been sitting in our library since the day Tim and I combined our respective collections about eight years ago. This book was his.

Over the years I've often looked at it. But somehow always skipped it - a bit weird since I love reading about running. Something about the nuts bit in the title irked me, like some people do when they describe themselves, 'Me? Oh yes I am craaaaazy!'

I always think if someone is weird in that funny way as the crazy wannabe's wish they were, I'll notice without them telling me so.

Finally two weeks ago I did pick this book and opened it up - mostly because I was so frustrated with my own efforts to complete a book. As I was struggling with an ever-evolving structure that didn't seem to work, I was studying the table of contents of completed and published books.

I run Therefore I am ... Nuts! has 47 chapters, divided over 10 parts. Reading these titles, I became interested.

Part II is titled Racing - The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Da Feet. It starts with Chapter 6 Runner Mutation: Just pin that race number on the meek runner and let the personality transformation begin

I liked that, especially since it also reminded me of the transformation that triathletes make as soon as they are in their black wetsuits. The rubber will turn the nicest people into fierce competitors who will pull you under water unless they swim over top of you while `accidentally' bashing you in the head while they're at it. Yet, stripped of these floating power suits they'd probably share their last caffeine gel with you.

Back to Schwartz's book. After reading through the table of contents, I realized that I might have judged this book unfairly and started reading. I do most of my reading before I go to sleep and over the next few days I dozed off laughing out loud as I worked my way to Schwartz's brilliant book.

I cannot believe this gem sat in my library unread for eight years. Tim hadn't read it either, as the book had been a gift and somehow it never appealed to him either. I've since convinced him he should read it, or rather the parts that I haven't read to him already.

This is truly a brilliant book, extremely well-written by someone who not only loves to run but clearly knows a lot about it. My apologies Bob for not getting to it earlier - but as I've discovered that was clearly my own loss.

March 03, 2009

Ambassador for NYC-based SBR

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We received over one hundred applications from so many amazing athletes of all ages, abilities and nationalities. After reading through each and every application, we are confident that we selected a solid team of men and women to represent SBR Multisports and the worldwide triathlon community.

The Worldwide Ambassador Team is comprised of athletes ranging from 22-66 years, and 26 different locations around the world.

February 28, 2009

When Running 37km Feels Easy (Almost)

As mentioned in my previous post, I am as excited as intimidated about my 3-hour training runs. I've done them often enough to know that they can be very painful and very long if you don't take them seriously.

So I always take some extra care with my preparations. Today I brought seven energy gels (3 Powerbar, 3 Clif Shots, 1 Gu). Each gel contained caffeine. Typically I try to use as little caffeine in my training as possible but for my first 3-hour run this year I made an exception. I've felt less than energetic during some of my training runs in the past two weeks, which is not abnormal after racing a half marathon.

In a ziplock plastic bag I carried my house keys, a two-dollar coin, a 20-dollar bill and a piece of ID. The coin I planned to use for buying a bottle of water during the run - I wasn't planning to use the $20 bill but you never know.

During my long runs and my races I always wear a top that has two pockets on the back. Since I've only found one top over the years where the pockets are tight enough to my body that prevent the gels and other objects I carry from bouncing around, you usually see me in the same top (see the picture). The top is made by De Soto.

I also carried a 500ml bottle of water. I selected an On The Go playlist of my favourite 74 songs on my iPod which I carried in the back pocket (with zip) of my Nike shorts. (And in perfect timing AC/DC's Heatseeker marked my halfway point - love the first few lines of the lyrics (though I'm pretty sure they don't have running in mind) and the energy of the song.)

For breakfast, I had my usual coffee, then two bananas and a Clif Bar (I prefer the plain Powerbars but had run out). It was cold but sunny. So I wore compression tights, with my shorts over top. Then I had a short-sleeve dry-fit shirt with my favourite long-sleeve running sweater with tight hood (by MEC).

Wearing the tight hood isn't exactly flattering, and looks very hardcore Cathy Freeman in her catsuit but it is perfect for the cold. I always wear sunglasses, with blue lenses, and I applied some sunscreen (nothing like a few years in Australia to notice what the sun does to your skin).

Time to go. During my recent long runs, longest 2hr40min, I had felt exhausted and sore in the final 10 to 20 minutes. But I hadn't brought as much nutrition and water. Today I also made sure to watch my cadence, ie keep it high which also avoids lifting your legs too much at the back.

I counted my strides after about 80 minutes of running and was taking about 100 strides a minute. My partner's triathlon coach has been telling him to focus on increasing his cadence, which made me realize why I usually felt better running when my strides are shorter and leg turner is faster. It's great to learn from different people!

I followed the same out-and-back course as I have been doing for my long runs. I felt like I was running easier than last week but found to my astonishment that I ran 3 minutes quicker (over about 16 kilometers) today. I had another 13 minutes to go from that point until I could turn around.

I felt great so far, and realizing that I actually ran faster as well put me truly on a high. At the halfway point, so after 90 minutes of running, I had my third energy gel and was close to finishing my 500ml of water. I knew I'd pass a corner store after about 2 hours of running and that's where I planned to spend my $2 coin.

While I was reluctant to stop running by the time I got to the store, I knew that I would pay the price if I kept going for another hour without water. So I took the 2 minutes needed to buy a 600ml bottle of water. In Sydney I would always plan my long runs along the public water fountains you find throughout the city. But unfortunately those are not available here, for logical reasons.

I got home a couple of minutes quicker, so I did a small detour to ensure I ran for thr full 3 hours (I know that sounds silly but I feel better that way - if you think I am bad, how about one of my friends: She is so precise with her running time that she stops her watch for every traffic light and other reasons to that interrupt her training - so much so that when she tripped over a tree trunk one day and fell, the first thing she did was to stop her watch on the way down to the ground.)

While I was tired and sore during the final 10 minutes, it was nowhere near as bad as it has been on recent long runs. My three hours had flown by, This was one of those rare days where running 37 kilometres almost felt easy! While clearly my body cooperated, my high cadence and ample nutrition and hydration made all the difference. Something to remember for race day!

I have to run another half hour easy this afternoon. My calves are a bit tight (I am overdue for an ART treatment and made an appointment for Wednesday). So I followed a recommendation from my fantastic ART therapist in Sydney - slather those calves in cooling Voltaren gel, wrap cellophane around them and leave as long as you can stand it. It really works!

Three Hours Plus

Today I have to run for three hours: sound intimidating?

It does to me, every single time I have to run one. But they're also very exciting. They are a superb mental and physical challenges requiring focus and dedication.

I've done quite a few of these over the years, including some that came after cycling six hours or about 180 kilometres earlier that day. Ah the good old Ironman days. The biggest lesson I've learnt is that you truly complete these by simply putting on one foot in front of the other.

These big sessions don't come around that often. In 2008 I did seven of them: three in preparation for the Vancouver Marathon in May and four in preparation for the Victoria Marathon in October.

Now I am again preparing for the Vancouver Marathon in May - and I have five 3-hour runs before the big day. You can see that the number of 3-hour sessions has increased in the past year. Since July 2006 I've run five marathons, with the slowest 3hr5min and the fastest one 3hr07min about every six months.

While slightly intimidated, I must admit that I was also extremely excited when I saw my training program for the first time and noticed that it included five of these monster sessions. It means that my coach believes my body is ready to take on a bigger training load, as my body has been holding up well (knock wood).

Even so, Pat has added extra days off in my training program. That means some weeks I will only run on four days, instead of five days a week. My overall weekly volume is about 80 kilometres a week.

Today I plan to follow the same course I have been doing for my other runs - out and back. As I've mentioned before, it is easier to deal with running that far mentally when you break it up into pieces. A 90-minute run is manageable. So I simply think about my 3-hour run as two 90-minute runs.

And most of all, I keep focused on the goal of this big training session: improve my marathon and try to get closer and closer to that goal of a sub-3 hour marathon.

Did I mention that I also have a half hour easy run later this afternoon? That means my total volume today will probably approach an entire marathon.

OK, time to stop typing about running and head out the door!

February 26, 2009

Reasons to Run

It's a good thing that I have so many reasons to run. That's what I thought to myself on Sunday after 30 kilometers of running on my own in the drizzling rain - I still had about two kilometers left to run.

I don't actually run for distance - I run for time. My coach tells me what period of time I should run for which on Sunday was two hours and 40 minutes. But I check the distance of my long runs afterwards with the help of Gmaps Pedometer.

Partly because I want to know the distance I covered obviously but I also wanted to know what pace I'd been running at. Even so, the main goal of my long runs is to run for the period of time as advised by my coach - it's all about time on your feet.

In preparation for this marathon 2hr40min has been my longest run. And in the final 20 minutes I was tired, sore and ready to stop. I couldn't help but think that my main reason to run that last little stretch was to be finished and leave the cold wet outdoors for a warm house and a hot shower.

When I got home I just changed into dry clothes - I didn't have the energy for a shower immediately - and lay down on the floor with my feet up in the air against a wall. It's a great way to get rid of the main soreness after a long run.

February 22, 2009

Back to Long Runs

Today it was time to resume the weekly long runs after a two-week break with a 2-hour easy and a half marathon race respectively.

By now the roads are clear, and I only had to contend with some rain today. I did my usual out-and-back course and even got a few hundred meters further today. I'd brought three caffeine gels and 600ml of water.

My breakfast was two slices of bread with honey, two bananas and a Powerbar. I didn't leave for my run until 11:15am and I could have brought another Powerbar in hindsight.

My legs felt reasonably OK after last week's race. But I had skipped two runs this week, the first one because I was still too exhausted from the race, and the second one for another reason. I rarely miss runs, but this week I was OK with doing so as part of my recovery.

As of next week, my long runs increase by 20 minutes so I will be running about 35km in the morning before doing another easy 30-minute run in the afternoon as well.

The final 8km today were tiring. And I had to give myself a few reasons to keep running. I have a lot of reasons to run. Some are big lofty goals that keep me going day in day out, others are little ones along the way that keep me going for another meter of 10.

It's always good to have a few solid reasons ready for those moments when your mind starts wandering and wondering why you're out there - particularly on those long runs.

I had enough reasons to keep me going today, and some of them included simply getting home so I could put on dry clothes and put up my feet. Another was some good food, and I made a big omelet of three eggs and three big slices of ham with cottage cheese on three slices of bread. Yum.

February 18, 2009

Marathon history

The Vancouver marathon will be my 10th certified marathon and I will run this 10 years after completing my first. My key goal is to have a better day on this course than last year, and I would like to improve my best time for the distance.

Victoria October 2008 3:07 (PB)
Vancouver May 2008 3:12
Gold Coast July 2007 3:15
Canberra April 2007 3:08
Gold Coast July 2006 3:13
Honolulu December 2003 3:36
Gold Coast July 2003 3:24
Sydney September 2001 4:44
Ottawa May 1999 4:18

(I've run the exact marathon distance, or further, another seven times in various races: five marathons as part of Ironman triathlons, the 46km offroad Six Foot Track and the 100km mostly offroad Sydney Oxfam Trailwalker.)

The biggest lesson I've learnt in the past 10 years is that preparation means everything, yet guarantees nothing. Running a marathon is never easy.

My `easiest' marathon where I felt extreme discomfort for the least amount of time was probably the Gold Coast Marathon in 2006. In this race I only suffered in the final four kilometers of the race. I would say that probably my toughest marathon was probably the Vancouver marathon in 2008 where I suffered, mentally and physically, during the final 17 kilometers.

February 17, 2009

Half Marathon Result

On race morning the alarm goes off at 5:50am. After a shower I apply some `deep heat’ cream on my calves to help warm up my muscles. Based on the weather forecast for a dry sunny day with temperatures around 5 degrees I decide to wear shorts, a top with back pockets for my gels and a dry-fit short-sleeve T-shirt (my finishers’ shirt from the 2007 Gold Coast Marathon). Then I add some layers to stay warm for now.

At about 6.15am I eat a Powerbar (vanilla flavour) and drink some water. I’ve also made my morning coffee to take in the car as we drive to the race start. Tim and I leave at 6:35am. As always, the drive between Squamish and Vancouver is stunning, especially since we catch the sun rising. Tim is driving. We talk a bit more about our race strategies. I drink my coffee, and some water. I eat another half Powerbar.

We get downtown at 7:30am and find a parking garage quickly. There’s a small line-up for the parking meter, and all the people in line are either runners or spectators. After we get our parking ticket, Tim and I each take a bag with us for our spare clothes which we can hand in at the bag check later. We power-walk to the race headquarters, which is already busy as the race starts in less than an hour.

There are small line-ups for the pick-up of our race chips and numbers. The volunteers are efficient so Tim and I are done quickly. Then we head immediately for the bathroom, knowing that the line-ups can be lengthy. I am in line at 7:55am. There are at least 15 women ahead of me, so I use the time to pin my race number to my shirt and wrap the timing chip around my ankle. I also take off the long pants and re-tie my shoe laces, so that they are nice and snug. I always double-knot my laces to avoid them loosening during the race. As I leave the washrooms at 8:10am the line-up has tripled. I quickly find Tim near the spot where we agreed to wait for each other after our bathroom stops. By now I’m getting anxious to get outside to do our warm-up. There’s only 20 minutes to the race start, and only 15 minutes until I want to be ready in the start area.

There’s another short line-up at the bag check-in area. I had already stripped down to my race outfit while I was standing in line for the washrooms. I double-check that I have everything: race number, race chip, sunglasses and gloves. I had put the four gels in the back pockets of my race top as soon as I put it on this morning – one less thing to forget.

We head outside through the stream of runners. Deep breath. It’s 8:15am. We have exactly 10 minutes to warm up which is fine. Tim and I run away from the start area. We begin with a 7-minute easy jog and finish with four sprints. Now I feel much better: we’ve done everything that we needed to do and are now ready to line up.

As we position ourselves about five rows from a rope that separates the main pack from the front, the race organizer announces that runners with race numbers 1 through 114 are allowed to ahead of the rope. My race number is 53. It’s nice to have a start privilege, so I decide to use the opportunity. Tim and I wish each other good luck and then I position myself at the back of that front pack. Just before the gun goes off, the rope is dropped and the main pack closes in.

While chilly, it is a beautiful day. I know I will be warm very soon. The atmosphere is excited. After a quick countdown, the gun goes off and I start my watch. There we go. As usual, the start is quick. I try to find my pace while a myriad of thoughts run through my head. “Am I running too fast, this pace feels easy, it wouldn’t be too slow would it? Everyone seems to run by me. I have to listen to my coach. He said no faster than 4:15/kilometer in the first half. Then I can speed up. I hope I can speed up by as much as I want to. What a beautiful day. I feel good, but do I feel great. Distance will tell.”

I approach the 1-kilometer mark. I check my watch as I pass it. Darn, I thought I was running easy but my watch says I ran 4:00. Way too fast and I slow down immediately. “I hope this isn’t too slow. I need to find my pace. Don’t worry about all the runners passing me. If you don’t see them again, they are simply faster runners. And if they are not, you will see them again in the final third of the race.” Tim passes me. I ask him what his 1-km split was: 4:12 he responds. That’s great. I let him go. I need to focus on my pace, and avoid being tempted to run with him.

So I settle into the pace as advised by my coach and return to my own thoughts “I think I feel good. Positive thoughts: I feel great, my shoes feel great, I am comfortable. There’s the 1-mile mark.” I pass it in 6:43 – that’s much better. A 4:15/km pace is 6:50/mile pace. I reach the 3-mile mark in 20:39 and try to do the math quickly. “Three times 7 is 21, minus three times 10 seconds. Yup, that’s great.”

The course follows the seawall around Stanley Park. It’s beautiful on this sunny winter day. As I am still running relatively easy, I make sure to take in the beautiful views. I run through a few mantras. “Relax and achieve the max. Right on pace, and feeling great.” My mind repeats these mantras over and over to avoid any question marks or negative thoughts. The next miles takes me 6:52, 6:54 and 7:00 respectively, so I am at the 6-mile point in 41:26. This is about 25 seconds slower than the ideal time but pretty good. I can see Tim a few hundred meters ahead of me. I need to run my own race. I take a gel as I see the water station ahead of me. It’s always nice to wash down the sweet and stick gels with some water.

When I reach the 10-km mark in 42:55, I repeat the words of my coach in my mind. “If you’re feeling good, slowly wind up the pace.” At the halfway point which follows 550 meter later I quickly check my watch to do the math: 45:12. That means a 90:24 finish if I were to run the second half at exactly the same pace. I definitely want a sub-90 finish and am confident I can achieve that. But I want more than that, I’d like to get close to or even better my 88:13 PB. That seems a stretch, though not impossible. The only way to find out is to try. With permission to wind up my pace, I now can run as I feel and stop looking at my watch. I slowly accelerate and focus. I focus on my breathing being deep and relaxed, on my body feeling challenged but not overly so, on my thoughts being positive and supportive.

Another runner has decided to run with me. He matches my pace stride for stride. I like when people do so running side by side. It’s another mental boost. After a while he asks me what my goal is. “Dunno,” I respond. While partly true, it is the first and shortest answer that comes to my mind. I do not want to break my focus by chatting – this is not the time for small talk, no matter how short. And I’ve learnt the hard way that talking can bring about a stitch that kills the race. Three years ago, I was about halfway in a half marathon. Parts of this course were double-backed, so you could see people ahead and behind you. While I was racing, I also like to encourage others, especially people I know. The effect is two-fold: they get a lift from your encouragement, and it also helps me to express positive comments. I’d shouted encouragements to two people earlier. But when I saw a third friend and shouted at him, I almost stopped dead in my tracks when I suddenly got a sharp and painful stitch. Even focusing on my breathing didn’t allow me to recover from it. I was forced to walk for several hundred meters to let it subside. Needless to say that destroyed my race goal and I learnt a valuable lesson. Use your breath only to breathe when you’re running at race pace.

Today, I am motivated by the man wearing a blue shirt running next to me. But I do not use energy registering anything else such as his face or guessing his age. I am focused on the runners in front of me. Slowly we’re reeling them in. I also see Tim’s white shirt coming a bit closer. I’m determined to catch him as well as a woman who is running a bit behind him. While we’re closing the gap on these two, it’s going very slowly. That must mean that they have picked up their pace as well. Finally with two miles to go I’ve caught the woman – or so I think - and Tim’s only about 50 meters ahead. I’m feeling the strain by now.

While I have checked my watch at a few mile markers I do not press the lap button and I cannot recall any numbers now after the race. I know that at this point I need to focus on not giving in to a desire to slow down. I hope I am not slowing down. But as I turn the corner at the 20-mile mark a short incline hits my legs. The woman and Tim are increasing the gap. Another corner, thankfully this is flat. But another corner reveals another and longer incline. I almost feel crying! I try to run as best as I can but the runners ahead of me are running faster. After I tamed this unexpected incline that feels like Mt Everest at this point in the race, I try to quickly recover my breath and thoughts. “Come on, the finish is close. I can’t see it yet. How close it. Come on you know it is close – pick up the pace.” Now that the road is flat again I accelerate and finally see the finish. The clock still reads 89. I am desperate to finish sub-90 so I sprint the final 150 meters as hard as I can.

Tim finished well ahead of me and I am so excited for him because that means he ran sub-90 for the first time. The first things I do after crossing the finish line is high five and hug him: he’s long deserved to break this – mostly – mental barrier. His official time is 89:06, a PB by more than a minute. It’s a fantastic result.

My official race time is 89:39. While relieved that it is sub-90, I am also a bit annoyed. This is a flatter course than the previous half marathon I ran about 10 months earlier: I ran 86 seconds faster there! Since then I’ve got more solid training under my belt as well as three more 10km races and two marathons. I know all is relative, and I cannot expect to achieve a personal best in each and every race I do but I cannot help but feel disappointed.

There is no doubt I am a Greedy Runner. I want to improve and am willing to work hard. While my coach and Tim are right about reminding me to be thankful for and happy with my result, I will also use that sense of wanting more to harness my motivation for the training for my key goal: the Vancouver Marathon. I love running, regardless of how much I may whinge and whine about a matter of seconds in results. If I am disappointed in subtle differences, then I need to focus on the details in my training. Better hydrating and fuelling my body during and after training sessions. Enough rest. Better mental focus in speed sessions. Better consistency and focus in my weight training. And most of all, Believe and Achieve.

I’m very excited about now getting stuck into the bulk of my marathon training over the next six weeks.

February 12, 2009

First Half Marathon

I'm running the First Half Marathon in Vancouver on Sunday. It will be my first half since April 2008, where I ran an 88:13 PB. I was surprised to realize it's been that long. While I've raced in 10km's and two marathons since then, a half just didn't suit my schedule for some reason.

I like racing half marathons. My first-ever race I did was a 20-kilometer event through Brussels (Belgium) in May 1997. The race has been held annually for 29 years and draws thousands of entrants. Click here to check details. It took me 2:00:18, which placed me 12,484 th.

I was so happy with simply finishing it and proving to myself that I could run 20 kilometers. It wasn't until February 2000 that I ran my first half marathon. By then I did have a few more races under my belt, varying from 10km, 16km, 30km, a marathon, and an off-road marathon that was cut about 3km short because of a sandstorm.

It was absolutely pouring during that first half marathon in Peterborough, Ontario (Canada). I finished in 1:54:15 (net time). My splits were very even: 57:02 for the first lap and 57:15 for the second.

I ran my second half marathon in August 2002 in Lake Macquarie, NSW (Australia). By then I training and racing mostly as a triathlete. While I had raced the half marathon distance two or three more times in between, it was after swimming 1.9km and riding 90km.

My Lake Macquarie half marathon had an amazing outcome: I finished in 95:35 and won my age group, both big personal milestones. In 2 1/2 years my half marathon time had improved by nearly 20 minutes.

The next big breakthrough came in September 2006 at the Sydney Half Marathon where I broke 90 minutes for the first time, finishing in 89:29.

Three months later, I found myself taking the lead in the Central Coast Half Marathon (NSW, Australia) at the halfway mark. My strategy was to run as hard as I could for the next few kilometers and hopefully open up a gap big enough to discourage anyone to close it. I won my first half marathon in 89:16. I won my second the following year in Joure, the Netherlands, though as it turned out afterwards the course was 500m long. I ran 21.6km in 92:10.

My next half marathon was at the Sunshine Coast, BC (Canada) in April 2008, where I set the PB as mentioned above 88:13. My time was good enough for 10th female. In the First Half 2008, the 10th female ran 86:11. I am looking forward to be inspired by the high level of runners that are drawn to the First Half.

My coach told me to stick to 4:15/km pace, and definitely not faster, for the first 10km. After that I should "wind up the pace slightly". Of course I will heed his advice. Since I am not sure whether there are mile or kilometer markers on the course, I also worked out that 4:15/km translates to 6:50/mile.

A month ago I ran a 10km race in 40:36, or just under 4:04/km. So I should feel relatively comfortable after running 10km at a speed that is 11 seconds per kilometer slower. I should reach the 10km mark at 42:30, or the 6-mile mark at 41:02.

The race starts at 8:30am. Since we (Tim and I) are driving from Squamish and still need to pick up our race package, we'll leave the house no later than 6:30am. That means our alarms will go off at about 5:45am.

I'll have a couple of plain Powerbars as soon as I wake up, and will drink a total of about 750ml water between then and 8am. (I always stop taking fluids half an hour before the race start - it's no good to start with a sloshy stomach full of water.)
I'll also have my morning coffee as usual.

This breakfast should get me through the first 45 to 60 mins of the race. I will take a sip of water as I take a cup or whatever it comes in as I run through every aid station. I will also bring 2-3 gels of which I'll take at least one.

Right now, the weather forecast for Sunday is Sunny, with 0% chance of rain, temperatures between 0 and 6 degrees, and wind of about 10km/h. Sounds pretty good to me!

Today I only have a light speed session, followed by two days without running. I'm looking forward to that after my training volume has steadily increased with my key goal the Vancouver Marathon on May 3.

My training has been going well, despite the fact that this former Australian resident still struggles with the Canadian winter weather - even as mild as it is in Squamish compared with other parts of the country.

It doesn't get below 5 degrees often in Sydney, where I lived for seven years. The challenge for runners there is in fact the opposite: dealing with the heat and humidity in summer.

Training during a second consecutive Canadian winter has allowed me to adjust to the cold and snow. My biggest problem with winter is when the roads/sidewalks are icy and a lack of variety in running paths because of safety when sidewalks have disappeared under a big layer of snow, leaving only the roads to run on.

This winter I got a gym membership for four months, so I've done some training on the treadmill on days when it wasn't safe to run outside. Now the snow is slowly but surely melting away. The days are getting longer and the sun has come out for some beautiful days. I know we are not quite there yet, but I cannot help but get so excited about spring time.

I'm planning on kick-starting my spring with a great half marathon!

February 09, 2009

Productive Long Run

My long run today is `only' two hours - still a long way to run. But all is relative, and it is 40 minutes shorter than the two prior weeks. I have a coffee and an energy bar before I head out the door.

Thankfully it is dry, despite a forecast for rain/snow. At the start my legs feel like they have in the previous two days - pretty heavy. I enjoy the thought of a shorter run today, before my 3-hour sessions begin in two weeks.

While I am always excited about the big training sessions, I can't help but feel a bit intimidated by them too. But nothing to worry about for today. I am running on a pair of Adidas Supernova Glide shoes which I'm testing and reviewing for a magazine, along with a pair of Nike Zoom Vomero 3.

I'm carrying a 500-ml bottle of water and two gels (Clifshots), both with caffeine. After about 20 minutes my legs start feeling a bit more supple and my thoughts turn to some work projects. Running usually brings creative ideas, and today is a top day.

I return home having worked out four great ideas during the 2-hour run. Overall, I felt good both mentally and physically - a sign that my nutrition and hydration was sufficient and the caffeine didn't hurt either.

February 07, 2009

Preparing for the First Half

Tim and I were both lucky enough to secure a spot for the First Half Marathon in Vancouver next Sunday. The race sold out in a few hours and seems to attract top runners, judging from the results from previous years.

That should make for an inspiring race. The course looks good, see here.

I haven’t raced a half marathon since April 2008, when I ran a PB of 88:13 in the Sunshine Coast half marathon. It’s been a bit of a roller-coaster half year since then. But my last three races were solid, and I was glad to set a PB in the Victoria marathon.

I did a 10km in December, and one in January. Both were flat courses. The January race was very cold, with a few icy spots on the road making me careful about my footing. While I ran a relatively comfortable 40:26 in the December 10km, I struggled to finish in 40:36 in January. Both races fell short of my 39:51 PB, set in January 2008.

When I put my December 10km time into Merv's Running Calculator, I theoretically would end up with a 89:53 for a half marathon. I find this tool helpful to make comparisons of theory and practice, and to calculate a pace per mile or kilometre for a race.

This calculator takes into account that you fatigue as the distance increases, so it allows you to see what time you theoretically should be able to run for a certain distance based on a time you actually did run recently for another distance.

Using this tool, my half marathon time seems often to be slightly ahead of my 10km and marathon performances.

For example, I ran a half marathon in less than 90 minutes for the first time in September 2006 (89:29 on a certified course). My best 10km time then was 41:39(!), though the calculator shows my half time translates to a 40:15 for the 10km. (Based on my actual best 10km time then, the calculator suggest a half marathon of 92:35. The first time I ran a 10km in less than 41 minutes was in December 2007 - 14 months later - when I did 40:24.

My 88:13 time translates to a 39:40 10km and a 3:05:11 marathon, neither of which I have accomplished yet. My most recent marathon time of 3:07:10, run in October 2008, translates to a 40:06 10km and an 89:09 half marathon. Of course I'd like to aim to get close to 88:13 again, and ideally a bit faster. To do so, my pace will have to be 4:10 per kilometre, or 6:43 per mile.

My legs have been tired from the increasing volume as I prepare for the Vancouver marathon in May. But this Sunday, my long run is only two hours (40 minutes shorter than the previous two weeks) and next week my volume is light as well, with some short but intense speed sessions.

So I'm expecting to be on the start line more rested than I feel today. As always, I am looking forward to testing my fitness. My pace goal in the first half of the race will be 4:10-4:15, a relatively comfortable pace that should leave energy in the tank to pick it up in the second half.

February 05, 2009

It's Never Too Late to Start Running

Just like before a long run or a speed session, I need to mentally prepare myself to start writing for a book I'm working on. I usually read a few pages of another book. Today I flicked through Alberto Salazar's Guide to Road Racing and a few sentences about the late Mavis Lindgren caught my eye.

"The late Mavis Lindgren, of Portland, Oregon, for example, began running in her early 60s, ran her first marathon at age 72, and by age 93 had run 76 marathons."

Wow. I Googled her name and found articles about her in the New York Times and Sports Illustrated. There seems to be some confusion about a few statistics in the various resources but regardless of which numbers are correct, this woman was amazing! Especially since she began running marathons in the 1970s.

Women were not allowed to compete officially in the Boston Marathon until 1972 and the women's marathon wasn't introduced to the Olympics until 1984.

Click here for the Sports Illustrated article from 1978.

Click here for a link to the NY Times article from 1993.

If this woman doesn't inspire a can-do attitude, I don't know who or what else could.

February 04, 2009

About Weight, Diets and Nutrition

I just came across some papers dated November 27, 1998. It is a Microfit Fitness Profile, compiled by a gym in Toronto that I was joining then.

That was just over 10 years ago. I'd been running for nearly three years, though was lacking much knowledge or guidance about basic training principles. But - as I mentioned in an earlier comment on this blog - I was running and liked it.

My first running race was the 20km of Brussels in May 1997 and I also finished a 10km and a 16km race that year. And at the end of 1998, I was thinking about training for my first marathon.

There were some promising results from my test. Each aspect was rated according to the following categories: Unfit, Fair, Average, Fit, Athlete. My highest score was on my Rest Heart Rate, which put me well into the Athlete category. My second-highest score was for Flexibility, which also ranked me as an Athlete. My third-best score was for Aerobic Fitness, which put me in the upper range of the Fit category.

My body fat percentage was calculated at 23%. That put me in the lower end of the Fit category. My weight then was 158.5 pounds, or 71 kgs (the test was done at night, wearing clothes of course, and I even believe shoes though I am not sure.)

Reading this now, I went to the scale to check my current weight (done at noon, wearing clothes and Ugg boots): it's now 139 pounds, or 63kgs. (I don't know what my body fat percentage is currently but it would obviously also have to be lower.)

Much of that difference in weight can be attributed to a transition to regular training. After that fitness test was done, I ran my first marathon in May 1999, and tried a triathlon a few months later. In 2001 my approach to training changed from a DIY-one to hiring a coach (triathlon). Since I decided to focus on running, I enlisted my current running coach in June 2005.

Ten years after that fitness test, I am training for my 11th certified marathon (I've run five marathons as part of Ironman triathlons, as well as a couple of off-road just below and above the marathon distance). Consistent training over the years changes your body, and weight.

But my lower weight also has much to do with a change in nutrition.

In many ways I eat anything I want to - the key is that there are many "foods" that I simply do not want to eat.

I do not hunger for typical junk food: no fries, burgers, sodas or pizzas. I do not care for cookies or chips. I will not eat any food that I cannot recognize because it has been deep-fried and/or covered in sauce.

But I do love a big steak with baked potatoes and salad with, say, feta cheese. I will eat a bigger plate of pasta with tomato-based sauce than anyone I know (including my partner Tim who is a hungry triathlete). I love cinnamon bagels with raisins, filled with ham and cheese.

While I do not care for cakes in general, I love a quality mud cake. Dark chocolate is hard to resist, as are certain types of jujubes. I love peanuts, cashews and almonds. Fresh and dried fruits are great snacks too. I love crackers with hummus, especially combined with a glass of bold red wine.

I always have breakfast, always. Most of the time I have cereal, though only if it is one without added sugar. (My favourite is made by Alpen. The dried fruit makes it sweet enough). If not available, I will have a sandwich with ham and cheese (cottage cheese is even better). As many experts have said, breakfast is the most crucial meal of the day. And I certainly know it is for me.

I once read that the closer a food is to its natural state, the better it is. So that's generally what I try to look for. I always read labels on food packaging, to check for fat and sugar content.

Noodles are a good example. Some of those will have close to 20 grams of (unhealthy) fat per 100 grams - I stay away from these. But others have about 2 grams of fat per 100 grams - that's OK.

Fat and sugar are not bad per se, quite the opposite. For example, the fat found in cashews and almonds are good for you (I eat them in moderation, a couple of handfuls - not the whole bag in one go). And the natural sugars found in fresh and dried fruit are good for you as well. I always pay attention to dried fruit: raisins, dates and figs typically don't have any added sugar, but most of the time things like dried pineapple and mangoes do. I tend to stay away from the latter.)

My weight has come down slowly over the years and I believe I've reached my natural weight. Depending on the time of year (more food in Canadian winters to stay warm) and what race distance I am training for (more calories burnt in those 3-hour marathon training runs), my weight seems to fluctuate between 60 and 62kgs if weighed in the morning before breakfast. (My height is 178cm).

I say, seems, as I rarely reach for the scales. I did check more regularly 10 years ago, when losing weight was still a main motivation for my running. And of course the weight issue is still important, but now it is a result of my regular training and better eating habits rather than the main motivation for them.

Particularly running, but of course any exercise, helps you to get in touch with your body. Fuel it well with the right food choices. It doesn't have to be hard.

January 27, 2009

First Long Run Outside in '09

Without any fresh snowfall in the last couple of weeks, the roads are clear enough to venture outside for my long run. After doing my last two long runs on the treadmill I was very relieved to be able to run outside today. If there's no other option I will do my training on a treadmill - even my long runs. And I have done a three-hour run on the treadmill before.

But if possible, I will always opt to run outside. I can deal with a chilly -7 degrees, which it is today, especially because it is also sunny and dry. Wearing two dry-fit long-sleeve tops, tights and shorts with fleece gloves and a hat, I warm up quickly. I've brought one energy bar and one caffeine gel, as well as a bottle of water.

It is so nice to run outside. I do my usual out-and-back trick. Mentally I only think about running 1 hour and 20 minutes one way. Then I turn around and run the same way back, which gives me the nice feeling that I am on the home stretch.

The first 2 hours and 10 minutes I am fine. But the final 30 minutes don't feel so smooth. Luckily I have no other option than to complete my run if I want to get home. (Not that I would have cut it short anyway, but it saves me from thinking about the possibility.)

Unfortunately most of that final 25 minutes is uphill - argh. I just grid my teeth, try to relax my tight and sore muscles as much as I can and stay focused.

That hot shower is around the corner, around the corner, past that little uphill. I am so sore when I finish, more than I expected - and I think the cold has a lot to do with it. Even though I feel warm enough, my muscles are affected by the freezing temperatures.

It feels so good to stop and I am pleased to see the clock showing 2hrs 40mins. It astonishes me every time that long runs can feel so tough, as if you have never run that distance before, even though I have done so - and further - many many times before.

After a long hot shower and some food I feel much, much better. I hope I can run outside again next week because I will also have to do an easy 30min run in the afternoon, following a morning session of 2hr 40min.

January 22, 2009

A Few Thoughts on Treadmills

Having been a runner for more than 12 years now, I have often run on treadmills for various reasons.

It can be safer than running outside, for example, if you need to do a run early in the morning or late at night. Sometimes weather conditions such as snow and ice make the treadmill a better option like has been the case for me here in Squamish at the start of the year.

While you should be able to run anywhere and it is a great way to explore new places, sometimes it may be better to run on your hotel's treadmill if you are unsure.

Whatever the reason, running on a treadmill has many advantages. You can keep track of the distance you've covered and the speed you're running at, you can choose to stay flat or tackle a few hills and your water bottle and/or a gels/energy bars are within reach without having to carry them.

Another benefit of treadmill running is that you can test your willpower. There is nothing stopping you from simply getting off at any point. When you are running outside, and you're a 30-minute jog from your home I suppose you could stop and walk home or take a cab - but it doesn't make much sense and is less tempting.

By contrast, a treadmill doesn't take you from A to B. So it is great mental training to do your workout as planned.

I've never owned a treadmill but have recently started doing some research on whether it may be worth buying one for at home.

During this winter, when bigger than average snowfalls made running outside next to impossible, I opted to become a member of a local gym. I have so far tried out two of their treadmills.

Mostly I have run on a treadmill by TechnoGym which I quite like. The buttons to change speed are very responsive and the surface is comfortable without being too soft. (I never quite realized how expensive treadmills could be, particularly those used in gyms and hotels.)

Speaking of speed, I don't worry too much about it in absolute terms. It is hard to translate the speed you run on a treadmill to your speed on the road, partly because of calibration differences and partly because of the lack of wind and of course the movement of the band.

I simply aim to run on the same treadmill so I can use the speed in that workout to compare with the speeds I did in previous workouts. Mostly I run on feel, ie if my running program tells me to do an easy run I simply play around with the speed until I find one that feels `easy' for me. Then in speed sessions, I crank up the speed as high as I can tolerate for the type and number of repeats I have to do.

I think you have to take the treadmill simply for what it is: a means to run when for whatever reason you are not able to do so outside. Don't worry too much about the specifics - just do your workout the way it is intended to be done, ie recovery pace, or a more intense pace as in a speed session, or settle into the speed you'll be comfortable with for your long run.

Then just forget about your ability to get off the treadmill, listen to music, watch TV, chat to the person on the treadmill next to you, or think about your running goals, the next holiday, etc. Sometimes it is very nice not to have to pay attention to anything else than keeping up with a moving band.

Going back to the research on purchasing a treadmill for home use, it seems that for the amount and type of running Tim and I do (7 hours a week for me and about 4 1/2 for triathlete Tim currently), it seemed that we would need something sturdier and more durable than anything under $1500 has to offer.

At a fitness store we visited last weekend the treadmills on offer were by Precor and PaceMaster. The prices of the treadmills on display varied from $1800 (the cheapest PaceMaster on sale) to $3500.

For our needs, it seemed that both a PaceMaster for $1800 and a Precor for $2800 would do the trick. But it is a large investment - and while I do think treadmills offer fantastic advantages, if possible I will choose a run outside any day. And I was able to do so this week already.

Some treadmill reviews are offered here:

January 21, 2009

Accomplishing the Ultimate

From Running Within by Jerry Lynch and Warren Scott (I read this amazing book before running the 2003 Gold Coast marathon where I finished in 3hrs 24mins, 45 minutes faster than ever before:

"... you totally give in to the natural environment and movement of your body. Tune into your form, pace, stride and fluid movement. Notice how running elevates your spirits and enlivens your body. When you feel this strong connection, you begin to experience the Zen state of satori - the union of body, mind and spirit. Such a union enables you to experience the ultimate in running...

"You no longer feel separated from your body: you again become one with the rhythms of nature and somehow feel in sync with them, the way running was meant to be. With this experience, you encounter for the first time, perhaps, the beauty of being alive and the truth about full-spectrum fitness for the ultimate game of life.

"Many people claim running is boring. There is no way that one could respond to that opinion. One simply must experience the passion, ecstasy and joy; the carefree lightness; the tranquil calm and vulnerability that such movement and play create. Running up a mountain in a relaxed state creates an opportunity to play like a child without concern about whether you will reach the top or whether it will hurt."

Contest Within

When it comes to my training and results as a runner, I've been told many times by people, runners and non-runners alike, that I must be "so disciplined". Since June 2005, I have been training mostly five days a week nearly every week.

When I didn't run it was because my body and mind needed to recover from a race that was marathon distance or longer. Since June 2005, I completed a 100km off-road footrace (Oxfam Trailwalker), a 46-kilometer trail race (Six Foot Track), and five marathons (Gold Coast 2x, Canberra, Vancouver and Victoria).

After each of the above races I took a break from training, ie no running for a week, followed by a week of easy runs as I pleased before resuming my training program. While I've also raced in numerous 10kms and half marathons, recovery from these races does not require a break from running, just perhaps a week without any speed work.

I rarely miss a training session, and never just because I don't feel like training. That doesn't mean that I always feel like doing my training, particularly when it is too cold or too hot outside, or I feel tired, or lack time. But I know that once I start running, I will enjoy it. And on the rare occasion that I don't enjoy the training itself, I will feel so much better after my run.

To me discipline has been creating a habit motivated by enjoyment. I love the sensation of running, mentally and physically. Yesterday's run, for example, was an easy 50 minutes. While it was a chilly 5 degrees, a bright sun in clear skies warmed up the day.

Within a few minutes of running, my mind and body relaxed into an easy rhythm moving with my lungs, arms and legs. I basked in the sun, and took in the sight of the mountains and the rock climbers that found it warm enough to cling onto the Smoke Bluffs rocks in mid-January.

I find immediate rewards in running, as well as long-term payoffs, therefore I find being disciplined about doing it easy. I think my real discipline is tested in speed sessions and long runs.

This is where the mind needs to control the body to perform outside of comfort zones. During these runs, the amount of discipline mustered makes a crucial difference. On easy runs my mind can do whatever it wants, as my body is comfortable. But in speed sessions, my body is extremely uncomfortable which it doesn't want to be.

As with all uncomfortable situations in life, the way your mind deals with them determines the outcome. The same goes for running. Let's take the speed session that I find typically the toughest to deal with mentally: 2x 1500 meters, followed by 2x500 meters. My coach will give me goal times that he thinks I should be able to run based on recent results.

His time goals are achievable but typically only just. I know this from experience, so that is my first mental challenge: I know beforehand that I will have to push my body close to its limits. That is going to hurt, mentally and physically. The first 1500 meters will be OK, but it will also determine how the other three repeats will feel and go.

While I have to achieve my time goal, I also have to make sure I don't spend all my energy on that first repeat and have nothing left for the other three. But I also don't want to run too easy, because then it will take me more time to complete the distance than I am allowed. As you can probably tell by reading this, it is easy to overanalyze and psyche yourself out before even having started.

So that is where you need the discipline to control your mind. You must focus, don't allow it to decide beforehand that it will be too hard or too painful or too impossible. You must especially focus on the here and now each step of the way. Do not think about the previous steps and don't think about the steps you still have to take. Relax mind and body, and focus on making each single step the best possible to achieve your goal.

Another mental example are my weekly long runs which are set at 2 hours and 40 minutes in the coming two weeks. While I know my body is ready and capable or doing so, my mind may come up with excuses.

If I allow myself to think after 40 minutes of running that there are two more whole hours - or 120 minutes - to go, I may not feel like continuing. But if I `trick' my mind by, for example, thinking about the run as two parts, each of 80 minutes, it will be easier to deal with.

When I run alone, as I have done mostly since moving to Canada, I typically will do an out and back course on my long runs. That way I only think about running 80 minutes one way, quite manageable. When I reach that point, I simply turn around and retrace my steps.

The mental benefit is that even though I still have another 80 minutes to go, I am able to tell myself (and trust me, I do repeatedly) that I am on the homestretch.

While this may seem far from enjoyable, these thoughts are only a small part of what I think about during a long run. Most of the time is spent thinking about my next key goal, the Vancouver marathon, or the two shorter races I plan to do in between, the First Half marathon in February and the Vancouver Sun Run 10km in April, or I think about things that have absolutely nothing to do with running.

I may think about answers to questions, ranging from irrelevant to meaningful, family, friends, future and - my favorite - nothing whatsoever. This latter state is rare and I truly enjoy it when it occurs. It can happen during easy runs when I am either very relaxed or extremely tired - but it also may happen during a speed session or race when you are completely focused on what you are doing.

This state typically allows you to perform to your true potential, and is often referred to as Being in the Zone.

Below is a paragraph from Running and Being by George Sheehan:

“Discipline in running, discipline in training, comes easily. Discipline in real life is another story. The mind and the will and the imagination are not as easily controlled as the legs and the thighs and the panting chest. Running, of course, helps. The art of running, as Eugene Herrigal wrote of the art of archery, is a profound and far-reaching contest of the runner with himself.”