March 30, 2011

Five weeks until the marathon: race pace

Last week was an easy-ish week of training for me. Easy because my Sunday long run was only two hours and split over two sessions: an hour on the Squamish trails in the morning and another one in the afternoon. And I say -ish because my week did include an all-out 5km time trial on Tuesday with the Squamish Titans.

In preparing for this marathon, my key weekly speed session has been the Tuesday Run with the Squamish Titans, and in many weeks it's been my only one. 

With five weeks to go until race day on May 1, my mind has been turning toward setting a race pace goal: it's crucial to pick the right pace. You certainly don't want to start a marathon too fast, but you don't want to underestimate the shape you're in either.

(The fewer marathons you've done, the more you should err on the side of caution. You'll reach the finish line sooner if your marathon starting pace is too easy, than if you begin too fast and hit the wall before you even get to 30km. Walking the remainder costs a lot of time, I can tell you from experience.)

In deciding on race pace, I take into account both facts and dreams. Facts include recent timed efforts such as the time-trials and races in the past few months.

Last week's 5km time-trial was my third this year and my times have been consistent (19:34, 19:39, and 19:30 most recently). There's one 5km effort left, on April 19, two days after the Vancouver Sun Run 10km, which I'm also registered to race. Both will be helpful in deciding my marathon race pace.

So far this year, my only race has been the First Half in mid-February which I finished in 89:46. That time puts me on track for a 3:08 marathon, according to Merv's Running Calculator, a tool I've found helpful in the past few years. That's a pace of 4:28 per km or 7:11 per mile.

Of course I consider my training, so far this year, and that of the past six months. I've been extremely committed to my long runs, having finished three 3-hour training runs, as well as those Tuesday interval sessions with the Titans.

On the flipside, I've been running four days per week, rather than the five days I did in previous years when I was still following a program from Australia's Pat Carroll.Two of those weekly five session were speed work, against my one weekly session this year.

Overall, I feel that I am in great shape, perhaps not the best shape ever but also not too far off it.

I also look at my marathon history. In the past five years I've run eight marathons: my slowest was 3:15 (Gold Coast Marathon in July 2007) and the fastest was 3:07:10 (Victoria Marathon in September 2008). I've run the Vancouver Marathon twice before, in 2008 and 2009 in 3:12 and 3:10 respectively.

The first time I ran the Vancouver Marathon, in May 2008, I was expecting to improve my then-PB of 3:08 (Canberra Marathon in April 2007). My training had gone very well, and I'd set PBs in both the 10km (39:51) and half marathon (88:13) in the months leading up to it.

However, I felt horrible at 25km and struggled the rest of the way. I was initially devastated with my 3:12 finish. The following year I came back, prepared again, but more cautious and ran 3:10, feeling a lot better at the finish line, both mentally and physically. I ran another 3:10 marathon five weeks later and did a 3:11 in my most recent marathon in Rotterdam in April 2010.

Based on all that, and particularly my most recent half marathon time, I think I can certainly aim to start at a pace that will put me on track for a course PB, i.e. a sub-3:10 finish time.

Another good indicator was last night's Tuesday session in which we ran Yasso 800s. For those not familiar with them, they're named after Bart Yasso who found an interesting correlation between the time it took to run two laps of the track (800 metres) and his marathon time. He found that the time it takes you in minutes to do 800m repeats often correlates with your marathon time in hours.

Our awesome Tuesday Run coach, Roger Shirt, suggested we group together based on our 5km times, and could do 6, 8 or 10 repeats, depending on our recent run experience and training. Our recovery time was the same as it took us to run the 800m. Even in the pouring rain, there were 15 of us and we all cheered each other on as we went through our own Yassos, which was very motivating. 

Roger suggested I do 10 x 800-metre repeats. My goal was to run them at 3:10 or better. Tim, who also did 10, ran hot on my heels on the soggy dirt track. It's been a while, probably 2-1/2 years, since I last ran on a track and I loved the rhythm of churning out the laps.

My times were 3:10, 3:11, 3:05, 3:10, 3:06, 3:04, 3:04, 3:04, 3:02 and 2:54.    

I felt awesome, and was stoked with my times. If Yasso is right, I might be aiming for a marathon PB, i.e. go faster than the 3:07:10 I ran in September 2008. A PB is always a (dream) goal, though not necessarily the one that will determine the pace I plan to start my race at. I'll wait until the Vancouver Sun Run and my final 5km time-trial to make a final decision on my starting pace.

March 29, 2011

New book for marathon runners & Ironman triathletes

Squamish, BC (PRWEB)  March 29, 2011 -- As the popularity of endurance events including the  marathon, Ironman and adventure racing has exploded, more athletes are venturing into ultrarunning.

Squamish author Margreet Dietz, a five-time Ironman finisher and a 3:07  marathoner, is among them and has written a book to inspire and  encourage those tempted to try it, with some practical advice too: A Hundred Reasons to Run 100km.

Vancouver's Lucy Ryan has run four 100km ultras, finished eight Ironman triathlons and Ultraman Canada—which consists of a 10km open water swim, a 421km bike ride, and an 84km run—in the past four years. In 2005, the mom with a fulltime job had never run farther than a half marathon.

"Running 100km gives you a 'day off' from regular life. It's like a vacation of the mind—no thoughts of finances, work, what the kids are up to, etcetera—just pure survival. How often do you get to do that?" Ryan says in A Hundred Reasons to Run 100km.

For the full press release: New non-fiction book released for marathon runners and Ironman triathletes looking for a fresh challenge: A Hundred Reasons to Run 100km

March 23, 2011

(Ultra) runners at West Van library tonight

Please join me tonight at the West Vancouver Memorial Library for a talk about my first book, Running Shoes Are a Girl's Best Friend.

I will also have copies of my latest book, A Hundred Reasons to Run 100km which arrived only yesterday! At least two of the ultrarunners I interviewed for this book will attend tonight.

There will be plenty of inspiration and practical tips for runners of all levels. I'm also offering a special deal on some of my books. Hope to see you there!

March 20, 2011

Sun, trails & friends

This morning's run is one of the many reasons I love being a runner. With a hint of frost still on the roofs of this sunny almost-Spring morning, ultrarunner Gretel and marathoner/Ironman Derek arrived at our house at 9am. Marathoner/Ironman Tim, ultrarunning dog Luka and I were ready to go!

We set out for a run with three of us heading out for two hours, and two of us planning to stay out a little longer. We took the trail from Ravens Plateau in Valleycliffe that got us onto the S&M connector, toward the Far Side trail, a nicely undulating single-track trail that got us warmed up and arriving at the start of a big climb about 45 minutes later.

After a good gulp of our respective drinks and gels/bars/blocks/dog biscuits, we got started on the steep climb that led us to the cross roads with the Powerhouse Plunge about a kilometre later. The views toward the snow-dusted mountains surrounding Squamish were spectacular. Between the sunshine and running up the hill, none of us were cold.

We had a little more gravel road to go, up of course, with a few sections still covered in snow and ice before we hit the start of the beautiful single-track Hoods in the Woods for a spectacular downhill journey through beautiful terrain. Then we made it back to the Powerhouse where it was time for Gretel and I to say goodbye to the boys who had two hours on their schedule and headed home.

Gretel and I went back along the Far Side trail, and the S&M connector before heading out onto the dirt road, and then the trail that tooks us to the bottom of the Stawamus Chief which is where we turned around. It was time for the home stretch. Both tired but feeling strong, we kept a nice pace going.

When we arrived back at hour house, Gretel's Garmin showed we'd done 3 hours and 8 mins of running (she'd stopped her watch on our brief breaks) and had covered 29km of trails.

An awesome long Sunday run on the day before the offical start of Spring!

March 19, 2011

Running shoe reviews: IMPACT Magazine

Check out the 2011 running shoe reviews (15) in the latest issue of IMPACT Magazine. I tested and reviewed three of them: the Hoka Mafate, Nike Free XT Quick and the New Balance REVlite 890.

March 16, 2011

Join me at the West Vancouver library

Whether you're looking to start running or are curious about trying an ultra, please join me at the West Vancouver Memorial Library on Wednesday, March 23:

Running Shoes Are a Girl's Best Friend author Margreet Dietz shares stories and experiences that will inspire anyone. She's a 3:07 marathoner, five-time Ironman triathlon finisher and recently ran 50-mile and 100km races.

Thanks to the West Vancouver library's Authors at the Library Partnership Program.

Wednesday, March 23: 7:00pm - 9:00pm
West Vancouver Memorial Public Library, Welsh Hall West
1950 Marine Drive
West Vancouver, BC

See you there!

March 13, 2011

Book trailer (turn up the volume!)

Another 3-hour run done

It was time for my second 3-hour training run in the lead-up to the 2011 BMO Vancouver Marathon, held on May 1. A steady rain was coming down, and none of my running buddies showed. (I just had an email from one saying he did come to meet me at the usual time and place -- I wonder if the time change had anything to do with it?)

In any case, I set off alone at 9am, with a fully charged iPod that still has the playlist I used in the final 54km of the 2010 Haney to Harrison 100km. (That ultra was the first race ever in the more than 100 running, triathlon and duatlon events I've done over the years that I listened to music.)

I love running to music if I'm doing a long run on the road on my own. Since moving to Squamish, I've been doing a lot of my training on trails with my loyal four-footed buddy Luka whom we adopted from the local SPCA in April 2009 as a puppy of about four months.

Puppy Luka at the '09 start
The 2009 BMO Vancouver Marathon was the first race Luka ever watched and he decided then and there to become a running dog when he grew up.

Both tired at the' 09 finish
Luka even made it into one of the 2009 BMO Vancouver Marathon newsletters.

Now that Luka's a little over two years old, he loves to come for regular runs on the trails and I love the positive energy and sense of excitement he brings to my sessions. He joined me for an 80-minute run on Friday, and a 35-minute one yesterday afternoon.

With the pouring rain today and my plans to run much of the session on the road, Tim took him for a morning walk instead while I ran a pacey 95 minute pacey. Triathlete Tim was keen to do a 90-minute run and had agreed to join me for the second half of my run.

Going back home at the midway point also allowed me to quickly change into dry gear as I was already soaked for those first 95 minutes. Then we set off for a loop along dirt roads from Valleycliffe toward Quest University, along the golf course, the swimming pool, and then back home. Instead of cutting through Hospital Hill, we took the longer option and ended up back home after 1hr 42min at a solid pace.

It was so nice to have Tim's company for the second half of the long run. He had many cool stories from the Victoria Masters swim meet he did yesterday on Vancouver Island with other members of the Squamish triathlon group the Titans. Squamish-based swim coach and elite triathlete Jan Francke had suggested they go, and organized it.

It was a superb experience for many reasons. All Squamish Titans swimmers did very well. An 80-year-old Texas-based swimmer broke a world record in the 100 metres (which he swam a few seconds faster than Tim, who's pretty decent in the water and placed in four of the five events he did in his first-ever swim meet!)   

Besides changing clothes for the second half of the run, I also changed shoes and wore the Hoka for the second part. I've only had them for a few weeks, reviewing them for IMPACT Magazine (courtesy of Kintec). The more I try these shoes, the more I like them.

That brought my total running time for today to 3hr 15min, pfew! Back home I first changed into dry clothes, had a big glass of water topped with orange juice, and then lay on the floor with my legs up against a wall to help speed up recovery. 

Luka, my training buddy
Luka thought that was his cue to bring over a ball. Perhaps I should have brought him on part of the run, as he'd be lying up with his legs in the air, too, asleep on his couch. Next I had a sandwich with margarine, plenty of ham and cheese -- toasted.

Then I felt recovered enough to have a hot shower. Afterward, I applied a layer of Voltaren to my calves which always get tight before wrapping them in Glad wrap so the cream has a chance to work its calming and relaxing magic (a tip from my Active Release Techniques therapist in Sydney gave me years ago to recover from hard and/or long sessions).

I remember the time when I dreaded the long runs, afraid I'd give up before they were complete. Now they're my favourite sessions and I love doing them: two 3-hour sessions done, three left to go before May 1!

March 11, 2011

A Hundred Reasons to Run 100km review

"The book is a very good read—very intuitive for someone who is a veteran of ultramarathons or for those who are attempting their first century distance. I like the breakdown into 100 reasons. During a marathon a person lives through one lifetime, but during an ultra an athlete lives through a few lifetimes. All of us have broken down the ultras by distance markers or time frames. How wonderful to divide the 100km race into 100 reasons (one for every km) in the century race!"

Nadeem Khan, director of communications, International Association of Ultrarunners  

March 10, 2011

NEW: A Hundred Reasons to Run 100km

My new book on ultrarunning, A Hundred Reasons to Run 100km, has just been released! To celebrate, here's a $3 introductory discount for the $15.95 paperback.

To receive this introductory offer, please go to my online store and use the code 24WNDLF6.

The book is also available for the Kindle. Thanks so much!

March 09, 2011

Released today!

My latest book, on ultrarunning, has just been released for the Kindle. The paperback will follow within the next day.

March 06, 2011

First 3-hour run of 2011

It's a spectacular day in Squamish, a great relief after the big dump of snow we received last weekened: I was supposed to run 3 hours last Sunday but after struggling 2-1/2 hours alone on slippery roads, I had more than enough.

After a great hill / tempo session on Tuesday, I went to see my new ART therapist here in Squamish on Wednesday afternoon. She did a superb release, though I felt like I'd been run over by a truck so decided to postpone my run until Thursday, and postpone it again as I still felt so wrecked.

Until my two visits in the last 10 days, it had been months if not a year since I'd last had any ART done so I shouldn't be surprised at the way my body responded. On Friday, I only did an easy half an hour run.

With a gorgeous day yesterday, I headed out for an hour but felt so fantastic now that I'd recovered from the ART treatment that I did an 85-minute fartlek session. Today I began by taking my dog Luka for an easy 25-minute run around the block. Next I was joined by Tim and Stacey, and we jogged the 15-minutes from our house to the Adventure Centre where Derek was waiting for us.

Our course today was a flat out-and-back on the road. Tim and Stacey did a shorter session, so turned around earlier, while Derek and I kept going at an easy pace. Running in the sun, on clear roads, while having a relaxed chat with my training buddy, it was a stark contrast from last week's cold and lonely battle with the elements.

Derek and I ran for two hours. Then I had a final (uphill) 15-minute stretch to go on my own. While tired, I felt pretty good overall. I drank 500ml of water and ate 1 Powerbar during this run, after this morning's breakfast of (sugarfree) Alpen with milk and my usual mugs of coffee.

After a shower, I rubbed a layer of Voltaren on my calves before Glad wrapping them, a tip from a former ART therapist in Sydney. Then it was time for a big recovery lunch (omelet with ham, and bread with goat's cheese), and plenty of fluids (water with OJ, and peppermint tea). 

Less than two months to go until the Vancouver Marathon! First, I'll race the Vancouver Sun Run in mid-April with Tim and my sister, who's moving from the Netherlands to Vancouver. Back to work this afternoon, and finish the final work left on my book A Hundred Reasons to Run 100km. I'm hoping to release it this week and the proof copy of the paperback looks absolutely awesome.

I'll do an easy 30-minute run late this afternoon, something my former coach Pat Carroll introduced me to a couple of years ago. It's a great way to get in some extra mileage on those long run days, without pushing your main effort beyond three hours, which Carroll was an invitation for injury and unnecessary.

March 02, 2011

West Coast ultramarathon story

Here's a cover story I wrote for The Vancouver Sun's West Coast Life section about the great races on offer in the Sea to Sky Corridor this year, including three 50-milers.

"If you’re planning to do The Vancouver Sun Run, here’s a word of caution: You may enjoy it so much that you’ll soon be running marathons, and then ultra-marathons.

"That’s what happened to Margaret Paxton of Squamish, who began walking for fitness and relaxation about 20 years ago. She slowly added in stretches of running, and it wasn’t long before her walks turned into runs. Then her brother encouraged her to enter the Sun Run. Paxton hasn’t looked back.

March 01, 2011

Erica Jong's 21 Rules for Writers

On my most recent trip to the Squamish library, I carted away another pile of books on various topics including Erica Jong's Seducing the Demon: Writing for my Life. In the introduction, she says she started it "as a book of advice to fledgling writers. Why? Probably because I was terrified of writing my next novel."

Jong writes, "The first draft of the writing book contained such things as this list, Twenty-one Rules for Writers:
1. Have faith.
2. Dare to dream.
3. Take your mind off publication.
4. Write for joy.
5. Get the reader to turn the page.
6. Forget politics (let your real politics shine through).
7. Forget intellect.
8. Forget ego.
9. Be a beginner.
10. Accept change.
11. Don't think your mind needs altering.
12. Don't expect approval for telling the truth.
13. Use everything.
14. Remember that writing is dangerous if it's any good.
15. Let sex (the body, the physical world) in!
16. Forget critics.
17. Tell your truth, not the world's.
18. Remember to be earthbound.
19. Remember to be wild!
20. Write for the child (in yourself and in others).
21. There are no rules.

"Actually this was all advice to myself when I was petrified about putting one word on the page," according to Jong.

I love her list, particularly rule No. 13, and not just because that's my lucky number, and might have to post a copy of this list above my writing desk.