July 30, 2010

I wonder if I can ...

Two days ago I interviewed a runner for my next book. She is doing her first 50-mile race, something she wouldn’t have even considered a couple of years ago. Her race resume consists of a couple of 10km races and three half marathons. While a lifelong runner, she rarely ran more than an hour in training, has never had a coach until five months ago and didn’t know about speed sessions or interval training.

Now, at the age of 51 and looking supremely fit she is excited about starting her first ultra race on August 8. She is a mix of confidence and doubt, like nearly every athlete who is about to toe the start line of a goal race. Her training has been solid, she has done all the sessions her knowledgeable coach has given her and she has covered a lot of new ground in the past five months.

Yet she wonders what it will be like stepping into the unknown territory of the second half of the race—she has not run further than 40km or five hours in training, half of the race distance and time she hopes to take on race day. This doubt can only be silenced by starting and finishing the event. And her mind is already working on the next challenge, a 100km run.

This is the mind of an athlete, anxious and nervous before trying something they haven’t done before, yet already wondering if they can go further, faster. As she says, “I wonder if I can … if you let that thought come in...”

I first met her during a Sunday run in mid-May. I had considered doing the 50-mile STORMY, mostly because it was right at home, with the finish line less than 3km from my front door. It would be a great way and reason to explore more of the local trails, a huge network of which I have only seen a fraction in the two years I have lived here. I also thought it would be a good way to meet more of the local runners.

And, last but not least, there was that same thought, “I wonder if I can …”

However, I didn’t know anyone else training for this race, nor did I know anyone who wanted to go for three-hour trail runs with me. And the possibility of encountering wildlife on my own, particularly after a slew of cougar incidents in Squamish during the previous summer, scared me. Besides, my main goal is still to run a sub-3 hour marathon—for which I need to speed up by 7 minutes and 11 seconds. I decided STORMY was not a good idea and postponed it until another year. Then I ran into someone else training for it and changed my mind.

Since then I have met two local runners, one man and one woman, who have finished the 100-mile Western States and another who is about to run her first 100-miler here in Squamish next week. She’ll run two laps of the course that I will be doing. She’s an ultra veteran with the longest time on her feet 12 hours and 47 minutes.

While I am not even sure if I will be able to finish the 50 miles, my mind has already turned to the 100 miles—not with a plan to try one this year, or next, but with a more dangerous thought, “I wonder if I can…”

The first time I heard about 100-mile races was at least 10 years ago, when I had first moved to Canada. Living in Toronto at the time and working as a reporter for Bloomberg News covering fixed income and currency markets, monetary policy and economic news, I began training for my first marathon at the end of 1998 and finished it in May 1999.

I probably read about the great 100-mile races like the Western States and Leadville, as I doubt I saw footage on TV about these obscure events that are a lot less obscure now, like I did then for the Hawaii Ironman on the Outdoor Life Network. Watching Ironman I was in awe but I don’t remember thinking that I was going to do one of those one day, at least not consciously.

I did my first Ironman in April 2002, and another four in the next three years. It took me at least 11 hours to cover the 226 kilometres of Ironman, which is about the time I expect it to take for me to do the 80 kilometres on the trails of Squamish on August 8. In Ironman you are only on your feet for 42.2km of those 226km one covers in that one-day event.

What is it going to be like to run for 50 miles or 80 kilometres on trails that are at times tricky to negotiate? I can’t say that I know because I have never done it before but I can’t say that I have absolutely no idea because I have walked 100 kilometres in 24 hours on the trails around Sydney for Oxfam Trailwalker. And one thing I remember from that event is that I would have gladly stopped at 80km.

The final days before a big race are always an exciting and nerve-wracking time. Your training is done, you're ready but wonder if you could have done more. You're confident and yet anxious because you're about to answer that key question, “I wonder if I can…”

July 29, 2010

Powered From Within headed for New Zealand

Wellington City libraries has ordered my book Powered From Within: Stories About Running & Triathlon for its collections, the first one in New Zealand to do so.

Check out their catologue here.

July 27, 2010

Running Shoes in iBookstore

My book about 53 women who run, with superb advice by two top running coaches, is now available as an ebook through Apple's iBookstore for the iPhone and iPad. As mentioned in an earlier post that explains how to reformat your Word document to the epub format required to publish in the iBookstore, it took time to research how to do it all.

Once you understand the process it is pretty straightforward and this book, my third book available through the iBookstore, went very smooth.

Post-race blues (back to 2005)

In 2005, a friend was looking for a volunteer to take part in the 100-kilometre Oxfam Trailwalker in Sydney, Australia, as one of his team members withdrew because of an injury. It was four weeks until race day.

After checking whether the team planned to run or walk this event, and he confirmed they would do the latter, I volunteered to take the spot, paid my share of the entry fee, bought a three-litre Camelbak and a reliable head lamp, and joined the team on their final big three training sessions to get to know my other two team mates.

Having finished three Ironman races and a slew of other triathlons and running races within the past 15 months I thought my fitness level was good enough for walking 100 kilometres on the trails of Sydney. And it was. It did take, however, my three team mates and I an exhausting 23 hours and about 45 minutes.
Recently I came across a note on my laptop which I wrote shortly after finishing that first ultra footrace. Needless to say, I hadn't quite recovered from the race at the time of writing this and felt a little, errrrm, lost.

As much fun as endurance training and racing is, it's not unusual to feel a little down after completing a big event. You're exhausted and the big race you had been preparing for has come and gone. Now what? The answer, most of the time, is rest and then a fresh exciting new goal.

Six months after walking the 2005 Trailwalker, which left me in more agony than any other race I've done including five Ironmans and 12 marathons, I ran the 45km Six Foot Track in the Blue Mountains, Australia, in a little over six hours. And loved it. (Except perhaps those last 2km down the hill to the finish line, which my quads did not think a good idea whatsoever and simply refused to cooperate.)

As I am 11 days away from running 80km on the trails of Squamish in the 10th edition of the STORMY, I hope (and expect) that my post-race frame of mind will be better than it was after walking that 100km five years ago. One reason is that I am much better prepared with five more years of consistent run training under my belt and another is that I have already planned my next goal, the Bellingham Marathon in September.


"Most of us live our lives trying to better whatever position we find ourselves in, instead of choosing a direction and pursuing it." 

Noah Lukeman in The Plot Thickens: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life

July 22, 2010

What I am reading

I just started reading Noah Lukeman's The Plot Thickens: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life which begins with the dedication, "At the risk of repeating myself, I dedicate this, my second book, to my mother. I never planned to write another book on writing, and set down some thoughts on plot for her sake alone. Her encouragement brought forth a chapter, and before I knew it, it was too late to turn back."

Converting to epub for Apple's iBookstore

Two of my books are now available in Apple's iBookstore in electronic format, with the third one `pending', i.e. ready for sale soon. (And my first sales have taken place too.) As an independent author, I chose to publish and submit the books directly rather than through one of the approved Apple iBookstore aggregators, a. because I could and b. because it saves a boatload of money. 

Getting set up as a content provider and getting your ebook into the iBookstore is all relatively straightforward. You do need a Mac, of which there's one in our household though I do most of my work on an Acer Travelmate laptop I've had since 2004.

Since I have an iPod, I already had an iTunes account which is needed to become a content provider in the iBookstore. That all went pretty smooth. I filled out the information about my books, titles, ISBNs, and soon I was given my login for https://itunesconnect.apple.com

For me the most challenging and time-consuming part was figuring out how to convert my books (in Word documents) to the required epub format for the iBookstore. It took me days, which is why I am writing this post so it may save you some time. (Note: the chapter structure of my books is very straightforward, chapters 1 through X. My books also do not have any graphics or tables.)

If you have written more than one book, I suggest you begin with the one that has the lowest number of chapters. I first converted my book Powered From Within: Stories About Running and Triathlon because it has only 13 chapters, compared with 54 for Running Shoes Are a Girl’s Best Friend and 33 for A Work in Progress: Exercises in Writing.

First, create a new folder (with Windows Explorer) on your computer for the process I am about to describe. I created a sub-folder in the main folder for my book Powered From Within and called it Powered From Within EPUB. If you have a jpeg file of your book's cover, copy and paste it in this new folder. All we want to have in this folder are the plain text files we are going to create below and the book's cover image. Nothing else.  

Now open up the text document of your book, mine was in Word. Then open up a plain text writer such as Notepad. You need to chop your book into separate plain text files. Start with the front matter of your book—i.e. title page, bibliography, copyright page, dedication, acknowledgments, introduction, etc. You can, but do not need to, do this for the (Table of) Contents page. In fact, it worked better for me when I didn't (as I found by the time I reformatted my third book).

Each page needs to be a separate document, so cut and paste the title page from your, say, Word file to Notepad and save as FILE NAME Title Page 1 in that new folder you created (in my case it is called Powered From Within EPUB), SAVE AS TYPE, Text Documents .(txt) and ENCODING UTF-8.

Make sure you save each page with the encoding UTF-8.

I numbered the file names of the front matter to make it easy to rearrange the order later. For example, the second page in my books is the bibliography, so I cut that page from Word to Notepad and saved as FILENAME Bibliography 2 (again make sure you choose encoding UTF-8). 

This process is a little tedious but goes quite quickly. Once you are finished with the front matter, do the  chapters. You must cut, paste and save each chapter as a separate document. You can save them as FILENAME CHAPTER 1, CHAPTER 2, etc. Whatever is on the first line of each Notepad (or plain text) document will be included in the Table of Contents - though we will be able to adjust that later.

After this process you should have a list of plain text files in your dedicated EPUB folder, (mine is called Powered From Within EPUB) that reflects the table of contents of your book.

Now it is time to download free software (you can donate). Start with downloading eCub, here.
After you've downloaded the version for your computer, open up eCub and choose New Project. Fill out the details of your book (Title, Identifier for which I use the ebook’s dedicated ISBN number (different from the paperback version), Author) in the respective fields. Then you go to the Next Page.

Here I leave the file name as suggested, in my case PoweredFromWithinStoriesAboutRunningTriathlon, and Browse for the project file folder - the one you have saved all the plain text files in (in my case Powered From Within EPUB). I just want to make an epub file (not mobipocket) and click Next.

At the Choose Import Method I select the first option From existing text of HTML files in the project file folder. Click Next. On the Convert text files page, I leave the options as suggested and click Next. On the page Content I see all the files from my project folder and leave them all checked EXCEPT the jpg file of my book’s cover. Click Next.

For the Cover Design I use an existing file that should automatically show the jpg file I copied and pasted into my project folder. (I will not use it for the iBookstore since they ask for a separate file for the cover but at this point you must choose something). Click Finish.

eCub generates your book’s file and you see them in the order they will appear on the left hand side of the screen. The order of the files will probably need rearranging which is very easy to do (especially if you've numbered the plain text files in the file names, as suggested). Put your cursor on the file and then click the up and down arrows in the area just underneath the file list to move each file up or down.

Once you have arranged the files in the correct order, click on each one (starting at the top and working my way down to the bottom) and add the Guide Type in the bottom left corner by choosing the correct type, starting with Title Page, Bibliography, Copyright Page, Acknowledgements, and Preface for your Introduction. All the chapters are Text.

Now that's done, hit Compile in the top toolbar and your epub file is created.

Time to download another free software program, called Sigil which will allow us to make some simple changes, including to the layout of our epub file. To download Sigil, go here.Once downloaded, open the program and your new epub file that you generated through eCub.

You can use Sigil to make some basic changes by clicking on each page and/or chapter and then saving after you’ve edited it. Changes include removing pages and/or chapters. I removed the CoverPage for example. If you do too, ALSO go to the Images files (near the bottom) to remove the image jpeg file there. eCub asks you to give your document a cover but the iBookstore will do this separately.

You can make simple changes to the layout, centering text for example, or moving text around etc.

Make sure to save the changes and now your ePub file should be ready, including for uploading it through iTunes Producer! I hope that this post has helped to save time. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask and I will try to help if I can.

July 21, 2010

STORMY ultra race plan

With the 80-kilometre STORMY trail race a mere 2 1/2 weeks away it's time to make a race plan. It involves decisions on pace, nutrition and hydration, clothing and footwear.

While I make the same decisions before a shorter road race, such as the 10km or the marathon, I have done so many of them that I no longer need to think about it, at least not that long. For example, I already know my plan for the Bellingham Marathon, held in September. I will aim to cover my kilometres in about 4:25 each and bring eight or nine Powerbar gels. I will drink water at each aid station, without slowing down much, so a sip or two.

I will most likely wear Mizuno race shorts or Adidas 3/4 tights, depending on the temperature, knee-high compression socks, and one of my favourite race tops that have back pockets to hold my gels.

Running an 80-kilometre rail race, however, is a completely different story. I have not run that distance before, only walked a 100-kilometre trail which took me just under 24 hours and had my body ache like it never had before. (A friend, who ran it, told me afterward that running such a distance is easier. Hm, maybe.)

My pace will be a lot, lot slower, because of the distance and the terrain, and with a lack of experience harder to determine. I would like to finish in about 10 hours, which means an average of 8km an hour. The furthest I have run, both in distance and in time, is 45km in the Six Foot Track race which took me 6 hours and 18 minutes to complete in 2005.

For that race, I took a similar approach as to my marathons, carrying gels as I recall. My most comparable experience of racing for a similar amount of time as I expect to take in the STORMY is the five Ironman races I have done. Of course those consist of swimming, cycling and running, and with the latter two done on the road.

Since those races tend to be done at a relatively high heart rate, higher than I expect to be the case in the STORMY since I plan on running to finish, as opposed to racing to do it in the fastest time possible, I used a combination of energy bars and gels in Ironman.

With STORMY I am thinking that I may get a little sick of sweet gels and energy bars alone so I plan to mix it up with white bread sandwiches with peanut butter, pretzels (for the salt content) and bananas. Aid stations will also have food available. Unlike in marathons and Ironmans I will not see an aid station every 15 to 20 minutes, so I will need to better plan for my needs.

How much and what am I going to carry, in nutrition and hydration? What and where am I going to put food and drinks along the course? Am I going to stick to water during the race or am I going to add some Accelerade, a drink I have tested and love. Where am I going to put a spare pair of shoes and clothing? Can I give those to Tim who will come to support me, for sure in the second half of the race, or is there a risk I might miss him?

I learned the importance of race planning from my first triathlon coach. A amateur-elite level competitor, he believed in high volume and no-excuses training, including for those with full-time jobs, kids and spouses. Most of all, he believed in a race plan that meticulously determined nutrition and hydration in nearly all races, but especially those that take more than six hours.

My next coach, a former elite runner with a 61-minute half marathon PB and a 2:09 marathon best time, simply shook his head at my nutrition for marathons, shocked at the amount of calories I would consume. It works for me. And that's the main rule for me as I develop my race plan for STORMY, I will make sure to do nothing new on race - other than running 80 kilometres of course.

July 19, 2010

Running shirts

Any author, independent or not, must somehow spread the word about her books. Given that my first book is about running, it makes a lot of sense to me to promote it as I am running, something I do nearly every day.

While I had found great custom cotton shirts at Vistaprint Canada and a (hopefully as it hasn't arrived yet) thick and comfy custom sweatshirt at T-shirtMonster Canada, it took me a while before I found a technical running top.

I do not want to order a minimum of 12, or even six, since my budget is small. Finally I found what looks like a nice microfiber women's (and men's) running shirt that I could customize with images and text on Zazzle Canada. I have just finished the design and ordered a shirt for myself (and one for Tim with the title and cover image of my second book Powered From Within).

Hopefully the quality is as good as described and the shirt will arrive in time for my next two races, the Squamish 10km on August 1 and especially before the STORMY on August 8. Should anyone else care to order one, please See my store at Zazzle

What I am reading

Ralph Keyes' The Writer's Book of Hope: Getting From Frustration to Publication is an absolutely superb book that I highly recommend to any writer. As a writer staring at a first draft for my fifth book that at this stage seems perfect for the Trash folder on my Acer laptop, I am in need of some TLC and am finding it in this book.

In the first chapter titled The Essential Ingredient he writes:
"The hardest part of being a writer is not getting your commas in the right place but getting your head in the right place. Where help is really needed is in the area of countering anxiety, frustration and despair."

He cites Stephen King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, a book I read a few years ago and recommend. King said, "Confidence during the actual writing of this book was a commodity in remarkably short supply. What I was long on was physical pain and self-doubt."

July 18, 2010

After the First Draft

When I start dusting at 8am on a sunny Sunday morning, you know that something strange is going on. Or rather I am looking for excuses to avoid writing or rewriting. As mentioned in my previous post, I felt strongly this week that the 42,000 words I have written over the past three months in a word file titled Thoughts of an Independent Author were going somewhere, and were ready to be worked on as a finished first draft.

I first thought that about 17,000 words ago and then simply kept writing. And I guess I could keep writing now too but I know I'd only be kidding myself because I'd keep writing to avoid going back to the first page to begin working on the second draft.

While I read the first pages of this draft earlier this week and saw sentences, even paragraphs, I liked I am now terrified, too terrified to read more and start working on the book. As Julia Cameron rightly points out in her book The Right to Write, this is the stage where I suddenly begin to think that my draft has to be Great.I It's no longer about simply writing, it's about Writing A Great Book.

This has to be a superb book and I mentally put the bar so high that I am too scared to even look at it. Where do I start? Simply at the beginning? Do I really know where I am going? What if I reread it and find that it sucks, if 35,000 or more of my 42,000 words are just plain bad?

After the dusting is done before 9am and before I give in to the urge to begin washing the windows, I need to take a deep breath. And go back to my first draft.

July 17, 2010

The writers' Wall

Being familiar with Hitting the Wall when it comes to endurance sports, and believing that a good preparation and solid nutrition / hydration plan on race day prevents you from running into it, I read tonight about the Wall for writers. And, of course, I just ran straight into that one this morning.

Since April I have been working on a draft with the working title Thoughts of an Independent Author. It's grown to a manuscript of 41,000 words by now and I felt this week that I was ready to shape it into a proper manuscript.

This morning I thought to do a little quick research on what else has been written on and for indie authors and I come across a book by April Hamilton, which seems so great at first glance that I instantly feel my 40,000 words are pretty worthless.

After a great four-hour trail run in my preparation for the STORMY 50-miler on August 8 cleared my mind this afternoon, I am on the couch tonight reading a book by Julia Cameron, The Right to Write: Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life.
In the chapter called Sketching she says “My own experience is that somewhere around two thirds of the way through a piece I suddenly see what the wring was driving at. I see the patterns that have been set up and I get an idea where everything is heading. This point is a scary one. Now that “I” know “I” am doing, I begin to worry that “I” might not be able to pull it off. In other words, my ego wakes up. No longer content to let the writing write through me, it suddenly demands control. It wants this book to be “good”. This is the point that I call “The Wall”. All writers know it."

“The Wall is the point where a previously delightful project comes screeching to a halt. The Wall is the point where doubt sets in. No longer writing for the sake of writing, no longer happy just to splash in the pool, suddenly we think about those other people in the pool with us, whether they are faster, better stronger, showier. In short we begin to compete, not create.”

Clearly I hit that writers' Wall this morning. And I am going to take her advice on getting past it, which is to be "willing to do the work to finish this project whether it is any good or not."

Cameron writes, "When we insist on being great, the Wall stops us. When we are willing to be humble, we wriggle our way under the Wall and back to the glee of writing freely. By being willing to write "badly," we free ourselves to write - and perhaps to write very well."

That's why I love reading on writing, and especially Cameron's as she seems to always say the things I need to hear/read. Tomorrow I will go back to the first draft of my manuscript with a mind free of thinking it has to be great and full of simply writing and rewriting humbly.

July 16, 2010

STORMY is three weeks away

The STORMY 50-miler is getting close, with only one 10km race on August 1 and then STORMY on August 8. At night I wake up in a sweat at the thought of running 80 kilometres along trails but by daytime I am getting very excited about the prospect. My longest run has been an accidental 3 1/2 hours, though the last 45 minutes of that included a lot of walking since I ran out of nutrition and water.

Other than that I have not covered more than 2 1/2 hours. I know my level of fitness and my base of endurance training is solid enough to finish the race. However, my main concern is that my legs will get too sore for downhill running. When I ran the 45-km Six Foot Track in March 2005, which took me about 6 hours and 15 minutes, I was fine except for the final kilometres downhill to the finish line because my legs couldn't deal with that angle.

This weekend I will be doing a 4-hour run covering much of the first half of the STORMY course with a fellow competitor who I met a few weeks ago during a trail run. She has planned the route, which is fantastic. I'll meet her at her house and she has planned for us to run the following trails: Coho, Lumberjack, Mashiter, Jacks, through Alice Lake, up past the yellow gate, Bob MacIntosh, Dead End, Rock and Roll, Rob's and Cliff's corners, Mashiter, Tracks from Hell, Mike's Loop, Entrails, Mark My Word, Mashiter, Roller Coaster, Perth and then home.

While she took me on a run along some of those trails, I have only done them once so I am not sure how much I remember. There will be aid stations and course markings but it is a good idea to know where you are going on race day. I might take a camera and my tape recorder to record visuals and some training/pre-race thoughts.

My friend and I will leave our dogs at home for this run, because we plan to run in the heat of day. This afternoon I will plan my hydration and nutrition for the 4-hour run and am pretty sure it will include some caf gels and a Red Bull. My footwear will be the La Sportiva Raptor which I received a week ago to test them for a magazine.

July 13, 2010

iBookstore & Kindle

My book A Work in Progress: Exercises in Writing is now available as ebook in the Amazon Kindle store, as well as Apple's iBookstore. For the Kindle version, see here. I have not yet been able to check the iBookstore since I don't own an iPad or iPhone.

July 11, 2010

Race morning

It's 9am, half an hour before the first of four waves at the Squamish Triathlon will start in Alice Lake. I am at home, working on preparing my book Running Shoes Are a Girl's Best Friend for the iBookstore. The job is a reformatting one, time-consuming for a book with 54 chapters since they all need to be saved separately into HTML files before they can be converted to a proper epub file, which is the format required for the iBookstore.

Our day started at 6am. Tim decided to sign up for the Squamish Triathlon yesterday afternoon. While he walked Luka, I sat down to work on the manuscript for my fifth book with my usual pot of hazelnut-flavoured coffee and before I knew it I had added 900 words to the first draft that is now nearly 39,000 words.

After giving Luka fresh water and his kibble for breakfast, Tim and I jumped in the car at 7:25am and drove to T2, the transition area from the bike to the run. He put his running shoes and a few other items in transition while I checked on where I need to be to take the timing chip off the cyclist from my relay team.

We ran into Paul and Volcker, who were both surprised to see Tim there as he hadn't planned on racing, and wished them well. Tim then went to get body-marked. While I had been told yesterday at the race package pickup that I didn't need to get body-marked as the runner in a relay team, I just thought I'd ask again.

Turns out I did need to get body-marked after all, so a volunteer drew our team number 369 with a waterproof text marker on both my upper arms and upper legs. Good thing I asked. As Tim and I got ready to walk back to the car, I ran into my team's cyclist, gave her a hug and wished her an awesome race.

Because the race starts in a different location, where the swimmer of our team covers the 1.9km in the lake before handing our team's timing chip to our cyclist, who then cycles four laps before handing me the timing chip in place that is a good distance from the race start I cannot watch the race start. That's a shame but the way it is.

So after dropping Tim and his bike as close as the organizers would let me to the race start area I drove back home and arrived there at 8:30am. It's good for Luka as he now has company until 10:30am and I can give him a short walk before leaving him again. I will be able to watch and cheer on the competitors since the route is close to the spot I need to be to tag the team's cyclist.

Until then I can work on reformatting my book, feeling thrilled I increased my manuscript by 900 words in the coolness of the early morning. I can't wait to race!

July 09, 2010

Power of the mind

This Sunday I am the runner for a female relay team in the Squamish triathlon, sponsored by AARM Dental. The race is an Olympic distance, so I get to race 10km The course is two loops of 5km on single-track, flattish trails. I am looking forward to the race but it also meant I had to adjust my program.

With the 80-kilometre STORMY trail race a mere four weeks away I cannot afford to skip long training sessions which I usually do on Sundays. I decided to move my long run to today, Friday, so my legs can recover somewhat tomorrow and hopefully be fresh on Sunday.

The weather has been gorgeous this week, with record-breaking temperatures of mid-30s (Celsius). With the triathlon starting at 9:30am, I won't start my run until 11am at the earliest so it's going to be hot. I am meeting my teammates cyclist Toby and swimmer Nancy (also sponsor) tomorrow at noon to pick up our race packages and talk strategy.

Back to today's long run. Earlier this week I decided I should run up Nine-Mile Hill because it is part of the STORMY course and the biggest hill that I will hit after 45km of running. Tim, Luka and I had done this hill a few weeks ago and it has some very steep parts. I thought it would be good to do to build strength physically and mentally.

Last night Tim and I had gone to Vancouver with a good friend for the opening reception of a good friend's art show, see here. It was great event and we got home before 10pm. Still I felt very tired when I woke up this morning and even after a mug of coffee a long run up a hill didn't seem that appealing. And it was already warm.

Tim had risen early because he wanted to get a two-hour bike ride in. I was working on the first draft for fifth book, which is 37,000 words as of this afternoon, and said to him that running up Nine-Mile Hill perhaps wasn't such a good idea.

"Sure it is," he said.

I didn't feel like running on the road either and thought I might as well try to stick with my original plan. I dressed in white, with a nice short-sleeve top we got for running a 5km in Seattle last year, white shorts and a white hat, and added plenty of sunscreen.

Not feeling like carrying a camelback and without any pockets, I stuffed two Powerbar caffeine gels in my top, got my iPod and a 750ml bottle with orange Gatorade. (Breakfast was two slices of white bread with peanut butter and 2 1/2 mugs of coffee.)

My footwear were the Adidas shoes I am testing for a magazine, with grey socks I got in a race last year.

At 9am I was ready to go. The first 10 minutes were flat, as I jogged down our street towards the dirt road that is Nine-Mile Hill and then settled in for the climb. Enjoying the simplicity of my task - run up the hill at an easy pace until my watch told me it was time to turn around - I felt much better than expected.

The hill to the right of the road sheltered me from the sun, though that won't be the case on STORMY race day. Alone with my thoughts - I saw three cars and two walkers in two hours - I thought about my writing and running. I listened to Linkin Park for one album then chose to listen to the birds and for any sounds that would indicate any larger animals in the bushes.

The Vancouver Sun had a headline on a cougar in Vancouver attacking livestock yesterday and the memories of last year's cougar incidents in Squamish are still fresh in my mind. Nine-Mile Hill is a very quiet road, and the spectacular views of the surrounding mountains - most of which are still covered in snow - were not enough to take my mind of a potential cougar encounter.

The first car I had seen shortly after I started running uphill and was headed in the opposite direction. I had now been running along this road for more than 50 minutes without seeing anyone else. When I heard the noise of a car catching up to me a few minutes later I was both relieved to have another human being nearby and concerned that it could be a nutcase. I moved over to give the car enough space to pass, waved at the guy and then resumed running with my shirt covering my mouth from the dust.

While the hill was as steep as I remembered, it was also not as relentless. The hill starts at the 45km point of this course profile and I turned around at about 56km, so a 350-metre elevation gain over 11km which had taken me an hour to get up and 50 minutes to get back down.

My plan had been to do a two-hour run in the morning, and one hour in the afternoon. Remember how I was dragging my feet this morning but after two hours of running, two caf gels and 750ml of Gatorade I felt pretty good and decided to tack on a lap around Valleycliffe and Hospital Hill to arrive back home after a solid 2hr 30min run.

I have found this time and again. Often on days when you feel very tired, or you think you do, your body will surprise you if you ease into your training and you end up having a great run that refreshes your mind too.

It's 6pm now, as I type this, and I am heading out for an easy 30-minute run with Luka to bring my total running time for today to three hours. Tomorrow I plan to do an easy reconnaissance run of the 5km loop for the Squamish Triathlon, so I know if I need to pay attention to my footing and if it will be possible to pass other runners, since most will be less fresh than I will be since they'll have swam and biked.

Tim's now also debating a last-minute entry, and I think he will do it.

July 06, 2010

What I am Reading

From the Vancouver Public Library that offers memberships to Squamish residents too, a superb service that includes simply dropping off the books at the local library when they are due, I brought home The Right to Write: an Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life by Julia Cameron. Her The Sound of Paper: Starting From Scratch is one of my favourite books on writing, so I am very much looking forward to reading this.

A Work in Progress now as ebook

My latest book, A Work in Progress: Exercises in Writing, is available as ebook through Booklocker and will also soon be available in that format through Apple's iBookstore and Amazon's Kindle program.

This book, aimed at writers who could use some inspiration and encouragement, is US$9.99. You can read a free excerpt of the book here. To order and download the ebook immediately, please see here.

US-based Booklocker is a print-on-demand and ebook publishing services company that I also used to publish my first book Running Shoes Are a Girl's Best Friend as an ebook. Publishing your ebook through Booklocker is free and you pay a commission for each book that sells in their online store. I have not used their print-on-demand services but my experience with their ebook services has been very good.

What I am reading

I just finished Bart Yasso's My Life on the Run: The Wit, Wisdom, and Insights of a Road Racing Icon and Pam Reed's The Extra Mile: One Woman's Personal Journey to Ultra-Running Greatness and highly recommend both books, especially to runners.

July 01, 2010

Scotiabank Half Marathon

The Scotiabank Half Marathon attracts a good field of runners, with 2009 winning times 63:35 and 76:10. It’s always helpful to check previous results to determine where you should seed yourself at the starting line. I was comfortable starting close to the front but made sure there were a few rows of runners ahead of me.

The start was fast and furious. It’s always a bit hard to gauge your pace in the first kilometre, since you are fresh and raring to go, and so is everyone around you. While I am very comfortable running my own pace, I know that trying to keep up with someone else is the best way to lift your performance. So in the first kilometre I thought I might try to stick with a few girls ahead of me.

The pace felt a little fast. At the first kilometre marker I could see why, with my watching indicating 3:44. Three weeks ago I ran a 10km where my average pace was 4:12, so beginning a race double that distance almost 30 seconds per kilometre faster isn’t ideal.

On paper the Scotiabank Half Marathon course looks very fast, and it certainly is a nice one, but I had been warned by friends who have run it that it doesn’t feel as downhill as the course profile indicates. I eased my pace and hit the second km in 4:16, which was perfect. I felt comfortable and kept up a good pace for the next 8km, running each km between 3:41 (which included a large downhill that I just ran down as fast as I could while repeating, Free speed, Free speed, to myself) and 4:20.

At 10km my time was 40:42 and my race was a success right then and there, as I have not run this fast over that distance since January 2009. And I still had 11.1km to go. I stuck with my pace as best as I could, knowing I had a few minor hills to conquer including the Burrard Bridge. I gave it my all in the second half and finished in 88:30, my second-fastest half marathon time and 19th overall female.

I didn't realize until later that I won my F40-44 age group, since they take out the top three Master's women.

Here are my splits which both reflect the course and my fatigue in the second half. I certainly didn't run a negative split (i.e. the second half faster than the first half) but that wasn't my goal. I wanted to push myself out of a comfort zone, the 89-minute half marathon comfort zone, and see where it would take me:

8.50 (or 4.25 per km)
17.46 (or 4:26 per km)
4:37  (final 1.1km)

My next race is the Squamish Triathlon on July 11. I'll be doing the 10km run leg in a team sponsored by AARM Dental with two other women, swimmer Nancy and cyclist Toby.