January 30, 2012

New menu: double runs & couscous recipe

This week, one with 126K on the program following last week's 120K, began with a day of recovery; an easy 10K in the morning, followed by an easy 6K in the afternoon.

The weather was beautiful - dry, which was a stark contrast to yesterday when I ran 32K in heavy rain, wondering how on earth it is possibly that I am training for a marathon for a fifth consecutive winter on Canada's West Coast and still do not own a pair of waterproof gloves.

I am really enjoying the three recovery runs I have each week; so far each of them have been 10K, on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The double run today felt relaxing, too, and I enjoyed both sessions today, feeling my muscles loosen from yesterday's effort when I eased into the run with a sluggish body and a pace of 5:32 for the first 10.5K, followed by an average 5:23 for the next 5.5K, before turning up in the final 16K to an average 4:53.

The rain certainly underpinned my motivation for picking up the speed in the second half, as it would get me home quicker and help boost my core temperature. For a while, it seemed my body was going to tire but then it simply adjusted and happily cruised along at my chosen pace while I contemplated my astonishing lack of suitable gloves for this climate and listened to my iPod.

It was only a brief rest on the couch this Sunday, as there were chocolate breads to bake and dinners to prepare for an evening with good friends (who, incidentally, are training for their first half marathon).

I tried a new recipe from Survival of the Fittest: The Australian Institute of Sport official cookbook for busy athletes. I love great food but don't have a ton of patience in the kitchen (nor for spending hours looking for crazy ingredients in farflung places.)

Perhaps a bit risky to try a new dish for the first time when having people over, but this moroccan-style beef with couscous got eight thumbs up. The ingredients (except for the silverbeet leaves, which I replaced with parsley) were easy to find, and the dish is relatively fast and easy to make.

Serving 4, you need:
canola or olive oil (the book recommends spray)
500g lean beef, cut into strips (I used buffalo)
1 onion, cut into thin wedges
1 teaspoon minced garlic (I used four cloves, finely chopped)
1/2 teaspoon finely choped red chilli
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
400g can crushed tomatoes
250ml (1 cup) beef stock
2 zucchini/courgette, sliced
4 silverbeet leaves, shredded (I used a bunch of fresh parsley instead)
1/2 cup sultanas
2 cups couscous
1/2 cup toasted almonds (which I had but forgot to add, doh!)

Add oil to wok or frying pan and heat. Stirfry beef (buffalo) in 2 batches (I just did it all in 1 go) over high heat for 3-4 minutes or until well browned (I left it a little raw). Remove from the pan and set aside. Add onion to the pan and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic, chilli and spices and strifry for about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes and stock, bring to the boil and reduce the heat. Add the zucchini, silverbeet (parsley) and sultanas, simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Put the couscous in a heatproof bowl and add 2 cups of boiling water. Cover tightly and stand for 3 minutes, then fluff up with a fork before serving. Return beef to the pan to heat and serve over couscous, sprinkled with almonds. 

Not in the cookbook, but from own experience: pair with a 2010 Painter Bridge Zinfandel (a yummy red our friends brought) and/or a 2011 Finca Los Primos Cabernet Savignon (our staple red).


Also a new staple on the menu will be the double runs like today's on Mondays; with the exception of next week, a recovery one, all Monday sessions for the next nine weeks will consist of a 10K recovery run in the morning and 6K in the afternoon/evening. I like them.

Next up, a 16K session including 6K at half marathon pace.

January 25, 2012

Yummy, easy and healthy post-run meal

As miserable as yesterday's 16K session was in rain that was so steady that I couldn't have been wetter if I had run for 80 minutes in a swimming pool, today's 23K in air that was just a couple of degrees warmer and a touch drier was heaven.

The sun even peered through the clouds hanging mysteriously across the Squamish valley and the surrounding mountains. It was bliss, and so was my average pace of 4:52 per K for the distance. There was some rain once I got past 9K but my mood was too good for it to be spoilt.

I love a salty omelet with ham after a long-ish run, especially in winter. Today I varied the menu by cracking a couple of eggs in a bowl and then soaking two slices of calabrese bread in it, just as you do to make French toast.

I cooked the first slice in a frying pan with a little canola oil, adding a slice of ham and some sea salt just before it was done. The next slice I fried until done, and then smothered it in liquid honey.

This easy combo took care of my post-run cravings for salt and sweetness in one super-simple, healthy and, most importantly, d e l i c i o u s meal. I suspect my post-32K meal on Sunday will look quite similar.

Tomorrow has a recovery 10K, followed by another medium-long run of 19K on Friday.


On Monday I went to see my friend Michiko. She showed me how she makes gomaae (a Japanese dish of spinach and sesame seeds). Hers is absolutely delicious. I'll try her recipe soon; if my efforts result in tasting only a fraction as good as hers, I'll be very happy. 

January 22, 2012

Sunday = long run plus couch

The memory that stands out most from preparing for my first marathon, the 1999 Ottawa Marathon, was that Sundays became days when you did a long run and then, especially in winter, happily spent the rest of the day on the couch reading, napping and refuelling.

That pretty much sums up today, too.

After putting the final touches on the financial column I write five days a week for New Zealand's BusinessDesk, I walked Luka and realized that it was wetter and colder than I thought. Rain turned into snow turned into rain as the temperature hovered around zero.

It helped me decide to wear a little more than I had planned - I changed into an ancient pair of MEC running pants (bought when I trained for that 1999 marathon in a Toronto winter) that are a touch too wide and a touch too short but otherwise perfect in wet, cold conditions like today's.

I also mapped out an out-and back route for 26K, keeping in mind that the sidewalks and smaller roads in town were still covered under a layer of wet snow. Tim would join me for the first 9K, so I marked his turnaround spot too, just in case Mr Garmin ran out of juice or would otherwise fail to cooperate in the weather (it worked perfectly fine, aside from missing the first 300 metres as it searched for GPS signals).

I was a little grumpy in the first 3K as my shoes got soaked along Westway Avenue already and we then had to negotiate a few icy parts to drop down from Hospital Hill to Loggers Lane on Scott Crescent, but after that both our speed and my mood picked up significantly.

Shortly before the Eagle Run, after 9K, Tim turned around and headed home. The 19K he ended up covering today was his longest run since finishing the Whistler 50 at the start of November, Tim's first ultra.

I had my first gel and kept going until Squamish Airport, which I reached after 13K. By then it was snowing beautifully, and I enjoyed the next 2K that sloped downhill. I picked up my pace as I aim to do progressively in my long runs.

Overall, I felt pretty good and I enjoyed being able to do the session outside. Before I knew it, I was heading up the hill to Valleycliffe, though this time I stayed along Highway 99, which has a wide, and clear, shoulder, to avoid the icy Scott Crescent.

As it turned out, I went a little long, reaching home with 26.74K on the Garmin in 2:19. Given that it took at least 300 metres before the GPS had picked up the signals at the start of the run, it's safe to say I ran at least 27K.

I couldn't help but think about having to run another 190K as Coquitlam's Lucy Ryan just did at the 135-mile (217K) Brazil 135. A big huge congratulations to this amazing athlete!

Lucy, who I met at the Haney to Harrison 100K in 2010, had never run farther than a half marathon in 2005. By now, she has finished a bunch of Ironman triathlons, Ultraman Canada—which consists of a 10K open water swim, a 421K bike ride, and an 84K run—and several ultras.

I can't wait to ask her if she considered the 135-miler as a 100K (of which she has done at least four) in that, "Running 100K 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?" as she says in A Hundred Reasons to Run 100km

As it is, I ran half the distance Lucy covered in 45 hours this week, a total of 110K, slightly short of the 114K I was meant to do but the difference was too small for me to add a second run this afternoon.  It was another solid week of training, and I am not going to obsess over 3 or 4K.

By the time I got home, happily soaked, Tim and Luka had already found their place on the couch, with a cup of tea and a book for the former. After a hot shower, I joined them with a big ham omelet on a couple of slices of bread, a cup of peppermint tea and two of the books I'm reading at the moment, Thinking About Memoir by Abigail Thomas and How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer.

Sundays, especially in winter, are great.

Next week's program offers 120K.

January 20, 2012

On the road

Yesterday the temperature warmed up to about minus 4 by mid afternoon. The sun had even come out, while the wind had taken the day off. Tim was keen on a run, and so was Luka. My schedule had 10K, but a lap around the 'hood of about 7.5K worked fine too.

This morning I woke up to a white view, and thought that today's 18K might be for the treadmill again. But the conditions and temperature were quite nice I found during the morning walk with Luka, and I decided to opt for the snowy outdoors instead of the Star Trac treadmill.

Aside from a fairly usual winter outfit including a fleece hat, I had added a fleece neck warmer. Since it was snowing,  I also wore sunnies. My feet would be comfy in the Hoka One One. It was nice to be outside, and I got into a rhythm quickly. I was perfectly comfortable - aside from a cold nose when I was moving into the snowy headwind.

Some were tiny but agressive flocks of snow that hurt my face or jumped straight into my airways. I couldn't pull the neck warmer to cover my nose without my glasses fogging up from my steamy breath having no other way to escape. So I took turns between enjoying a cold nose and foggy glasses, and repeat, by moving my neckwarmer up and down clumsily as my fingers were cosily trapped in warm thick gloves.

While I like winter, my kind of winter is pretty mild. Like an Australian winter.

I felt great and enjoyed the run, though by 6K and bearing the full brunt of a headwind, I tired a little of the neck warmer dance. It's funny how little things can get to you on some days, and I began thinking about cutting the run short. I didn't want to because my nose was the only source of discomfort. Obviously I needed more practice and a better head cover in this type of weather.

By 9K, the snow stopped falling, and it was all the encouragement I needed to keep going. I got home after 17K in 94 minutes, with an average pace of 5:35 per K and an average heart rate of 129 beats per minute. Today's run brought the five-day total to 73K.

Up next is tomorrow's recovery 10K, followed by 26K long run on Sunday when I might add a second run of about 5K in the afternoon.

Treadmill encounter

Once a month the Squamish Writers Group meets in the office of Goodwin Studios. I wrote this piece on a fleeting encounter on the run to read at last night's meeting. 

In Alan Sillitoe's story The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, the protagonist uses running as an emotional and physical escape from his life. I doubt I run to escape, though might discover one day that in fact I do, and I usually run in solitude rather than in loneliness. 

There's plenty to think about on the run, after all, and on hard workouts there's no space or breath for talking. Silence can be golden for a runner but not all days are like that.

She gave me a friendly nod as she stepped on the treadmill to the left of mine. I'd been running on a Star Trac model for about 15 minutes. Escaping the danger of icy patches on the road, I had opted to stay indoors for a third day in four.

Club Flex owner Don Smith had welcomed me back after my two-year absence; the eleven dollar drop-in fee was a small price to pay for using an eight-thousand dollar machine for two hours. Today I particularly sought to escape the arctic outflow pushing the wind-chill below minus 20 on a day when I had to run 23 kilometres.

Running on a treadmill is challenging and takes practice. For starters, one needs a positive attitude and steely determination as the word Stop is emblazoned on the panel in front of you as well as on an emergency button on the side. Thick letters spelling out a forbidden desire that's most appealing when training is toughest are surrounded by a sea of red, taunting the runner to press the button one cannot escape from seeing on the treadmill.

Nothing takes more willpower than to remain in one place when that's seemingly taking you nowhere, a feeling a writer can be all too familiar with. At least the rest of the Star Trac screen reminded me that I was indeed progressing, as my heart, the hardest-working muscle in our body, was beating at 139 beats a minute. 

For the 115 minutes I would spend keeping up with the band I had set to moving at 8 miles an hour, it would about pump about 70 millilitres of blood per beat, as hearts do. At this rate, my heart moved almost 10 litres a minute, or more than 1,100 litres of blood for this workout. 

Cooperating fully was the largest muscle in our body, the gluteus maximus. It's the force that keeps us all upright, and a runner moving ahead—if she takes care not to let this beast become too tight by training too much too soon. The gluteus maximus can become a pain in the butt, as the left and right one are rarely created equally. The result of this common imbalance typically wreaks havoc elsewhere, like the knee.

If the right gluteus maximus is weaker than his left brother, it's the left knee that usually pays the price. Imbalanced is how we are all born, and we learn only to deal with this lack of equilibrium by first discovering it. Injury is a great teacher to those who are willing to listen and learn.   

I'd never met or seen the woman who I was to share part of my run with, as she kept up with her Life Fitness treadmill and I with my Star Trac, yet I knew a great deal about her by the time she left her stationary post thirty minutes later.

An elevated heartbeat, whether on the road or on a band spinning to nowhere, is conducive to talking, which in turn uses our body's strongest muscle based on its weight, the masseter.

She was 26 and about to marry her fiance in September. That's why she was next to me. She was going to use the nine months she had left until the wedding to get in the best shape of her life. She didn't need to lose that much weight. It was her tummy that gave her trouble as it refused to tone the way the rest of her body did.

She began working out as a teen, as she had a job at a gym back then. Her family all struggled with their weight and never listened to any of the advice she gave them.

She always watched what she ate, loving bread and carbs but not able to eat too many of them. For the past year she had done a lot of weight training which had made her a little bulky, she said, so that's why she ran.

Running was tough but she always felt so great afterward. Her fiance was amazing, he could just keep going and had even run a marathon, something she'd love to do one day. First, she'd try a 10K.

A knee injury had taught her boundaries as a runner. Her doctor had advised her to rest, as non-running GPs typically do. 

Tim Noakes, the South African author of Lore of Running, rightly recommends runners to never trust a doctor's advice on running unless he or she has practiced the religion. Rest is always the doctor's answer to an injured runner but it never is the solution to the problem, though it might get rid of the symptom temporarily.

Bikram yoga had filled the void, before she got to the weight training, she said, as we kept pace side by side. I didn't look at the speed she was running at, which I consider bad form unless it's the topic of conversation.

She took Bikram yoga classes—expensive at $20 a pop, she said—every other day and found that the 90-minute routine of 26 postures in rooms that are heated to well above 30 degrees helps you lose weight quickly.

The last class she took in Vancouver, where she moved five years ago from her hometown of Somewhere, was led by a drill sergeant who cranked up the heat an extra 5 degrees and blocked students from leaving the room.

She was glad to have left Vancouver behind after three years. She and her fiance had bought 8 acres in the Upper Squamish Valley. She liked it here; people were friendlier in small towns. Her parents had visited too, experiencing the area's typical wet climate before enjoying a week of the late summer just before fall arrived. 

Plans for the land were still in the works. Organic gardening was among them, though the start she made with tomatoes showed her the soil and conditions were different here. Her tomatoes had become almost the size of melons but remained green. The sunflowers that sprang up in her garden were a neat surprise.

She wanted to travel; visiting a friend in New Zealand might be top of the list.

Her treadmill was almost done as she never ran longer than 45 minutes, less on days she would be on her feet for eight hours at Coffeeshop. Hers was a supervisory role, she added, with unmistakeable pride before she left me at 48 minutes into my run, saying it had been nice to meet me because it made the time go faster. It certainly did.

January 18, 2012

Mid-week 23K on the treadmill

A morning walk with the dog confirmed that it was truly cold outside. The wind was what made the unusual cold for Squamish unbearable enough for me to head to Club Flex again. The $11 drop-in fee was well worth it to spend just shy of two hours on one of their Star Trac treadmills.

Today's 23K session is one of two so-called medium long runs I have most weeks in this schedule during the Endurance as well as the Lactate Threshold + Endurance phases, which together span 11 of my 18-week program. In these workouts I'm aiming for a similar pace / effort as in my long runs, i.e. between 74 and 84 percent of max heart rate and, in my case, a pace of between 4:41 and 5:06 per km.

Having said, Advanced Marathoning recommends taking it a little easier the day after a hard run, such as the lactate threshold session I did, also on the treadmill, yesterday.

Today I ran at midday and, having only had breakfast, I brought two gels. Of course I also had a small towel, a bottle of water and an iPod.

Today's workout wasn't challenging per se - I ran 14.2 miles in 1:55 and my heart rate never got above 145, staying comfortably below 140 for at least 90 minutes.

Even so, I felt a mental tiredness in the final 20 minutes or so of the session. It's I think the most challenging part of doing longer runs on a treadmill when the stop button is right in front of you the entire time. It's too easy to get off that band as you're not going anywhere.

On the road I usually plan an out-and-back route, or a nice big loop, where it's just not possible to cut the run short as I need to get home. The option of stopping doesn't enter my mind on the road, slowing down on a hard session, sure, but stopping, no.

Feeling the mental fatigue, I entertained myself by focusing on the enjoyable rhythm of my pace and cadence in the second hour and listening to music. Most of the first hour I had chatted with a woman who jumped on the treadmill beside me.

I also aim to visualize parts of the marathon as I train; particularly when I feel like dropping off my pace towards the end, I remind myself that sustaining the effort might be the difference between a 2:59 and a 3:xx finish.

Here's a great clip where the top 4 women of the 2012 US Olympic marathon trials held this past weekend - Shalane Flanagan, Desi Davila, Kara Goucher and Amy Hastings - talk about their final mile.

All in all, time flew by today and I felt strong throughout. With another solid run, I am 49K into this week's 114K. I love training for marathons.

Watch this interview with the inspiring Flanagan the day after she won the US Olympic marathon trials in record time.

Lactate threshold run on treadmill

It's cold; today the mercury is at minus 12. There's even an arctic outflow warning. Arctic outflow, according to The Weather Network, will give wind chill values exceeding minus 20. I haven't decided yet what do with today's 23K session; I'll venture outside to walk Luka first to check what it feels like.

Yesterday wasn't too warm either and, more importantly, there were still enough slippery spots on the roads. With a lactate threshold session to do where I have enough on my mind without worrying about footing, I headed back to the treadmill following Monday's gorgeous 10K recovery trail run over a light layer of snow with Luka.

Luka at 4 months
Incidentally, Luka loves snow, which gives him an extra spring in his step. He was rescued as a puppy from an area about 40 minutes north of Whistler. When we adopted him in early April 2009, Luka was estimated to be about four months old. That meant he was born in a winter when Canada had the first nationwide white Christmas in almost four decades.

Yesterday's session was 16K, or 10 miles. It included 8K, or 5 miles, at 15K to half marathon race pace and/or a heart rate of between 82 and 91 percent of max. On Sunday, when I had such a tough run on the treadmill, which was my first indoor run in about two years, I had brought my Garmin heart rate monitor which wasn't compatible with the Star Trac treadmill. Yesterday I brought a Polar monitor, which worked.

After a warm-up of 3 miles, I eased into the fast part of the run by starting at 8 miles an hour. Sunday's run reminded me that it's early in the season and that running on a treadmill indoors feels very different. After a mile I upped the speed slowy to 8.5, and then sped up gradually to 9 for the last two miles of the session. In the final half mile, I slightly increased at quarter mile increments to 9.3.

IF my heart rate readings were correct, my max is well above 184; for most of the workout I was between 170 and 190 bpm. But, unlike Sunday, I wasn't struggling - it was challenging, sure, but not crazy - and I felt good after the session was done, too. Once the 5 miles were complete, I cooled down with an easy 2 miles that brought the total to 10 miles. A great workout.

I believe yesterday I might have used this treadmill, the Star Trac E-TR, which retails for a cool $7,500 or so. 

If you're looking for some suggestions on treadmill workouts, Matt Fitzgerald offers a few in this article; it includes marathon race pace training (as I did, or rather tried to do, on Sunday, see this post). Another is the Endless Hill.

I might try to see if my schedule allows for the VO2 Max Test he suggests; The workout format that exercise physiologists commonly use to determine VO2Max is also useful as a powerful (if painful) fitness-boosting workout. Start by hopping on the treadmill and running easy for five to 10 minutes. 

Next, increase the belt speed by 0.5 mph and run for one minute at that speed. Now increase the belt speed by another 0.5 mph, hold the new speed for another minute, and continue in this fashion until you feel unable to run any faster. Reduce the belt speed and cool down. Note the maximum speed you attained and try to beat it when you repeat the workout in three or four weeks.

January 16, 2012

Tough run on the treadmill

I generally like to run on the treadmill, which I have used for runs of up to three hours. I believe it had been two years since I last ran on one before yesterday. On a day with icy roads and a session that included a tempo run at marathon race pace, the treadmill was the way to go.

I went to the gym at 8am, the time they open on Sundays. I brought water, a couple of gels, a charged iPod and a towel. Anticipating that the machine might be set to miles instead of kilometres, I had checked on the conversion of my goal pace.

There are plenty of benefits to running on the treadmill.

Norway's Ingrid Kristiansen ran a 2:21:06 marathon world record in 1985 after a winter with mostly treadmill running, according to The Competitive Runner's Handbook, while Alberto Salazar is also a fan, doing an incredible 35 miles on a treadmill in preparation for his victory at the Comrades Marathon.

Interval workouts on the treadmill are just as beneficial, Salazar says in Alberto Salazar's Guide to Road Racing. However, "[t]he main difference is that on a treadmill any given speed is slightly easier than on a track because you're not fighting your own self-generated headwind," he writes.

In a test with three mile repeats, Salazar found that his speed was 17 seconds per mile slower on the track than on the treadmill. According to Bob Glover and Shelly-lynn Florence Glover in The Competitive Runner's Handbook, "about 7 percent less energy is required, equivalent to running a slight downhill, to run on a flat treadmill rather than on a flat road."

My session called for 27K in total, including 13K at marathon goal race pace in the second half. I eased into the session, warming up until I hit cruising speed of 7.5 miles per hour (8 minute miles or 4:58 kilometres), though that felt a touch fast, and I eased back to 7.3 miles per hour.

I had the sense that I didn't feel as comfortable as I have in the past couple of weeks; perhaps it was the heat of running indoors, perhaps the treadmill wasn't calibrated accurately, or perhaps it was a result of the muscle release treatment on Friday, followed by a rest day on Saturday.

After 8 miles in 67:47, including the warm-up, for an average of 5:15 kilometres or 8:28 miles,  I had a quick break, refilling my bottle of water and taking a gel. It was time for the tough part of the workout.

I started off at 8 miles an hour, or 7:30 miles / 4:39 kilometres, moving gradually to 8.5 miles an hour over the next 15 minutes. While I wasn't panting or otherwise physically distressed, I also didn't quite feel up to it and the result was that after 3 miles I pressed the stop button.

I took a walk break of about 5 minutes, not too pleased with myself. Then I sped up to either 8.3 or 8.5, only to hit the stop button again after a mile, and taking another walk break. I didn't quite understand what was going on. Particularly on the treadmill, 8.5 should be doable.

I did another mile at 8.3 or 8.5, took another walk break, then ran a mile at 6.5, wondering if this was one of those days when it was better to pack it in all together. But I didn't want to; as much as I didn't feel like running the remaining 3 miles of the 8-mile tempo run that I clearly wasn't doing the way it was meant to be done - and I really didn't feel like running the remainder - the thought of cutting my long run short was even less appealing.

So I compromised, and coaxed myself into running the final 3 miles at 8, which took enough effort already. It was a tough, tough run, and I don't quite understand what happened. But sometimes that's the way it is. While it's a shame that I felt so bad, I cannot dwell on it. I'm glad I finished the 27K, bringing my total for last week to 102K (rather than the 109K on the schedule).

Using the McMillan Running Calculator, I triple-checked my target paces - they're correct.

It's a new day, a new week with 114K of training ahead. I'm looking forward to it. Today's a recovery 10K, followed by a lactate threshold session on Tuesday.

January 14, 2012

Retreat to the treadmill for long run

Winter arrived in Squamish last night. Much of the snow had turned to slush this morning and with temperatures forecast to drop below zero overnight, I expect plenty of icy patches on the roads tomorrow morning. Not the kind of conditions I like for a 27K run that includes 13K at marathon goal race pace, i.e. 4:15 per km.

So it was time for Plan B. I called a local gym I've used before and asked about the best time to drop by for a run of about two hours on one of their treadmills. Like many gyms, they typically prefer people not to hog their machines in peak hours. "Early I guess. No one here ever runs two hours on the treadmill," the owner said.  

I am actually looking forward to doing this session on the treadmill. All I need to do is run for a little over an hour at about 12K per hour, and then up the speed to 14K per hour and stay there for another 13K. I'll be able to park a bottle of water on the machine rather than having to carry it, and simply aim to keep up with the treadmill - especially in the latter half of the run.

Running a certain pace on the treadmill takes a little less effort than running the same speed on the road, but if I can stick with 4:15 on that band for an hour I'll be very pleased.

I am also looking forward to the run because I decided to skip today's after the ART treatment yesterday. While it would have been fine to do the training, I thought rest more beneficial for my body than squeezing in a 10K recovery run. It's only the second week of the program and having had all the scary injury scenarios in my mind the other night, I chose rest - as hard as it was to skip training.

Instead I followed the excellent Runner's World coverage of the US Olympic marathon trials in the morning, and later watched the final hour of NBC's two-hour coverage in the afternoon. Inspiring and informative stuff.

Four men finished sub 2:10. Meb Keflezighi won in a PB of 2:09:08, just seconds of the US marathon trials record set by Ryan Hall. At 36, he became the oldest US marathon trials winner and secured a spot for his third Olympics.

Keflezighi, silver medallist in the Athens marathon in 2004, ran the New York City Marathon in November (finishing sixth with 2:09.13), then developed an infection in his left foot, the result of leaving a nasal strip in his shoe, part of his pre-race ritual, according to Associated Press. He missed three weeks of training because of the infection in the lead-up to the trials.

Ryan Hall (with a 2:04:58 in the 2011 Boston the fastest American marathoner ever) was second and Abdi Abdirahman was third, taking the other two spots on the US team for the London Olympics. This will be Abdirahman's fourth Olympics.

It was also a fast day for the women. Shalane Flanagan crossed the line in front, her first victory in only her second career marathon, and set a trials record of 2:25:38. She improved her PB - from her debut - by more than three minutes. Flanagan's race mantra is "cold execution".

Desiree Davila (who ran 2:44 in her debut marathon in 2007) was second and Kara Goucher, a training partner of Flanagan, took third, both also finishing under the old trials record of 2:28:25 set by Colleen de Reuck in 2004.

January 13, 2012

Preventative treatment for runners

Last night I was a runner with piriformis syndrome, also referred to as a pain in the butt, and an Achilles tendon about to blow up; at least that's what I worried about as I had become acutely aware of a variety of tight spots in my body that had suddenly become exceptionally tight in the past two days.

A runner is always tired and always tight in some measure; it's a fact of life one simply gets used to. But just as there's a level of tiredness that is unacceptable - a sign of pending danger, there's a level of tightness that sends red flags to the brain. A runner who has been injured in the past knows to recognize them and to, hopefully, heed them in time. 

As I push my body to the next level by running more and more often than ever, I am absolutely paranoid about pushing it too far. While I am confident that the training schedule I have chosen to follow is right for me, with a peak volume of 140km per week (though funnily enough this is called a recovery week as I noticed the other day) I am also a cautious athlete who is terrified of getting injured.

These past 13 days of training have felt fantastic, and it's almost like I worry that it's too good to be true. I know that I have done my homework in choosing my program and I don't want any spanners thrown in the works just as I am enjoying myself. I'm positive, optimistic and confident. But I am also cautious, very cautious.

That's why I think my mind went into overdrive yesterday, as my body signalled an increased level of discomfort (not pain) that was beyond my level of tolerance. I booked a double appointment (45 minutes) with my local chiropractor, who is also a runner, for an Active Release Techniques treatment at lunchtime today. Being familiar with ART treatments since October 2003, I don't expect to train on the remainder of the day after a treatment, so I needed to do the 18K session that was on my schedule for today in the morning.

However, with the tightness having developed into symptoms of major injuries in my active imagination, I wondered if i should skip my training. What if I pushed myself over the edge just before the treatment? What is one missed session if it staves off a problem that might stop me from running for days or weeks?

But I didn't want to miss my training. Besides, I was just tight - there was no pain. Perhaps I should simply try. If it didn't feel right, I could turn around and go home.
After a good night's sleep, I felt much better this morning, mentally and physically. It was a crisp clear day with temperatures just above zero, though they had dipped below that overnight. I warmed up with a hot shower, applied muscle-heating cream to my lower back and calves, and then walked Luka before getting ready for the run.

Still apprehensive, it was Friday the 13th after all (though 13 is my lucky number), I chose a route that followed mostly soft flat trails and decided to walk the two steeper, longer hills I would encounter, if I felt good enough to make it there, to avoid stressing those Achilles. I also decided to run a little slower than my goal pace for this type of session, which is 4:41 to 5:06 per km.

It turned out to be a good decision. Before I knew it, I was at 9km and feeling fine. I turned around and took the same route back. In the first half, I averaged 5:20 per km, and 5:10 per km in the second, as my heart rate stayed in the low 130s. I was happy; happy that I felt good - tight but good, happy that I had not skipped my run, and happy that I was about to get those muscles released.

Dr Leah Stadelmann of Chief Chiropractic & Sports Injury Clinic in Squamish did a great job of releasing, among other things, my glutes, psoas and hip flexors. I asked her what she thought of my level of tightness. She said that everything was releasing very well, which is good news.

So, what a difference a day makes; another run done and my mind at ease. Relieved and released. I very much believe in heeding your body's signs even if takes your imagination moving somewhat into overdrive; I'd rather seek treatment before problems have a chance to develop. Hopefully, that's exactly what I did today.

(ART providers I have seen and highly recommend in the Vancouver area are Dr Jenn Turner from Moveo and Dr Kevin Lunnie from Trailside Physio.)

January 12, 2012

New art by Michiko

This afternoon I met my friend Michiko for a walk around Nexen Beach on another crisp and sunny day. We hadn't seen each other for a couple of months as she'd been to Japan to visit her family and got back just as I went to see mine in the Netherlands. Then there was Christmas and New Year...

Michiko, an oil painter, had kept me posted on her latest works via email and I was keen to see them in person. Yesterday, as I passed by the Adventure Centre toward the end of my run, I had quickly stopped to admire her second-last one, Before the Sun goes down, exhibited there.
"Before the Sun goes down" by Michiko Splinter (11x14")
After our walk, we dropped by her place to see her recent works. Her latest piece might be my favourite yet. It's superb. It's the largest canvas she's done in Canada - and the largest in 40 years; as a high school student in Japan, she did a couple of huge (about 75x90") paintings. This one was inspired by scenes of a walk we did together last fall along the trails in Valleycliffe, though it didn't start out that way.

"I had this canvas for over two years but I couldn't figure out what to paint. Then finally I started painting last October, a little stream in the middle and many trees around it," she says.

Then she lost interest and didn't return to the canvas until the end of November, and worked on it almost every day until finishing it two days ago, on January 10. "It turned out that there was no stream but a stump covered with moss and a lot of trees around it," she says.

Michiko's daily routine, when in Canada, includes painting and walking, and goes as follows: "Get up at 8:30 ... have a cup of coffee then start painting until noon ... have lunch and go for a walk for a little over an hour ... watch Japanese news on TV and cook supper ... take a bath ...watch TV having a glass of wine ... go to bed at 11:00. What a lazy person I am. But I love these lazy days," says Michiko.

The photo below does not do the picture justice; it's a spectacular painting that will soon be exhibited in the Portico Gallery here in Squamish.
"Undergrowth" by Michiko Splinter (24x30")

A runner's greatest fear: injury

In my 21K session yesterday, I averaged 5:00 per km - comfortably in the target range I am aiming for in these types of runs and it felt great to be there. It's very early days, just being in the second week of an 18-week program, but so far I've been surprised at the ease with which I seem to be doing the sessions of a 100K-plus week.

While I believed I was ready for this level of training, I couldn't help but worry that the first week already might prove me wrong. The training is challenging, no doubt; yesterday's 21K might have felt comfortable, with my pace and effort exactly where it should be, but I was tired after the run too. And that's OK. 

My body, however, is also warning me that to sustain the volume, a record for me, I'll need to take better care of it; my calves, always the most vocal, are tight which is a result of what's happening in my glutes. Those big quiet muscles, gluteus maximus and gluteus medius, never speak themselves but let other areas do the talking for them.

I got their message loud and clear in 2003 when an ITB injury stopped me dead in my tracks as I was preparing for the Honolulu Marathon; fortunately a superb chiropractor knew how to fix it with Active Release Techniques. He got me back running in just a few treatments; I ran the marathon, too.

My injury was simply a result of imbalances and a lack of strength that an increase in training is sure to point out. The chiropractor recommended strengthening exercises that I followed initially but didn't stick with. There's an excuse for everything, but the simple fact of the matter is that it already takes a lot of time and effort to do the run training itself.

Regular preventative ART treatments kept me on track, as did sticking to a good training schedule.

Since moving to Canada four years ago, I've cut back on the regular ART treatments that release my tight muscles periodically for various reasons, including the cost. Last year I might have had five treatments, compared with the monthly ones I used to get in Australia.

However, preventing an injury is, as they say, priceless.

Tightness in a runner's body is the early warning sign of problems developing and we ignore it at our peril; I use hot baths with epsom salts, self-massage including with the Trigger Point Therapy products, as well as heating creams and Voltaren, aside from a proper training routine, to ease it before it has a chance to develop into something serious (so far, knock wood).

There's nothing I fear more than getting injured as it forces you to drastically cut back on, or even stop, your training altogether. Improving as an athlete takes consistent effort, rather than a few months here and there, so you're ready to train a little bit more, better, harder each following season; the more consistently you're able to maintain a routine by keeping interruptions because of illness or injury to a minimum, the better you'll get.

It takes years. Well, it has for me.

I am speaking as someone who did her first marathon in 4:18, after three years of running, followed by a 4:44 marathon two years later. It wasn't until my third marathon, in July 2003, about seven years after I began running regularly from scratch, that I finished a marathon in less than 4 hours.

In that time I had slowly but surely boosted my fitness, as minor running injuries (including shin splints), led me to triathlon; the added swimming and cycling (I did a slew of triathlons and by then completed my first two Ironmans) paid off in running too, as I ran that third marathon in 3:24. By October I was injured, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it taught me a lot about my body and how to listen to it.

Today, almost nine years later, my marathon PB is 3:06:06. Of the 15 marathons I've run, I've run the past 11 in 3:15 or faster; it has taken plenty of work to find that shape that I still believe I can improve. To do so, I need to stay healthy.

I spent most of last night massaging my calves, rolling them, and those glutes, over a ball to release some of the tightness. Before going to sleep, I covered my lower back in muscle-heating cream and slathered my calves in Voltaren, before wrapping them in Gladwrap so the cream could do its work overnight.

While that helped, I felt looser on the 12K recovery run this morning, I also decided to call a local chiro who does ART and made an appointment for tomorrow as there's still too much tightness. I'd rather be safe than sorry, so hopefully I've heeded the warning signs of my body early enough.

It also tells me that I will have to commit to making time and energy for a regular strength workout if I want to sustain my training on this level. Improving your running takes more than running alone.

"As soon as your foot hits the ground, your glutes should fire first, followed by hamstrings and then quadriceps," Nancy Cummings, a certified strength and conditioning specialist, athletic trainer, and assistant professor of physical education and athletic training at Florida Southern College, told Runner's World for this article.

"If the glutes aren't strong enough to activate, the quads and hamstrings will have to pick up the slack. This throws off the alignment and mechanics of the entire leg and can lead to knee and foot problems."

January 10, 2012

A couple easy days

There are a few tight spots in my hips and calves following last week's training, so I was glad to start on Monday with a 10K recovery run. Doggy Luka came along, and we took our time to smell the roses, and a few other things.

Coming across a fellow marathoner I hadn't seen for a while, she was in her car about to pull out of a parking lot, we stopped for a quick chat to catch up. She's looking at a marathon, which would be her 7th, and an ultra (Frosty Mountain Ultra, a 50K in Manning Park, BC) later in the year after taking the winter off running to work on her strength.

My core strength regime has so far remained limited to good intentions, and five push-ups every other day or so. Hopefully I will find the determination to do a little more in the next couple of weeks.

That 10K took about 70 minutes including all stops, so it was a leisurely jog indeed.

This morning brought gorgeous sunny skies. With temperatures dipping below zero overnight, there were a few slippery spots. I stayed mostly on flat(-ish) trails for a 14K run that included 10 striders of 100 metres.

Up tomorrow is a 21K session. Looks like I will have another sunny day for it.

January 09, 2012

Whistler 50 Ultra: October 20, 2012

I just noticed that the Whistler 50 (mile) Relay and Ultra will be held on October 20 this year. That's serious food for thought.

I am focused on improving my marathon time before anything else, and am considering  the California International Marathon in early December as my second marathon for 2012.

However, the 2011 edition of the Whistler 50, which I ran in 7:57 after two fast marathons in the previous six weeks, also convinced me that a sub-7 finish should be possible on rested legs.

An October event (lowering the potential for ice and snow, i.e. worries about footing) is very tempting indeed. Ah choices!

January 08, 2012

Focusing on heart rate

It was time for a long run today, with 27km on the schedule. My guidance for the long runs, unless they include a marathon goal race pace hit, are to keep my average pace between 4:41 and 5:06 per kilometre, and my heart rate between mid-130 to mid-150 beats per minute.

Today's course was my usual one, heading north from Valleycliffe to Brackendale, and back. My breakfast was coffee, water and an energy bar. My warm-up was walking Luka and Punky, my sister's dog. I brought three gels and a 600ml bottle of water.

My iPod and Garmin were charged, and so was I, it appeared. After a sluggish start, I felt good once warmed up. I am very much enjoying a return to using a heart rate monitor; my pace may seem off at times according to the numbers on the display, which I find can jump around even as I know I'm running consistent.

Sometimes Mr Garmin says I'm going 5:39 per km, and 3:39 per km five seconds later. I know he's wrong but find it distracting and unsettling nonetheless, especially in sessions that are all geared towards keeping a certain pace.

Heart rate measured by the Garmin is much more stable, so if that number is in the zone it's supposed to be, then all's well. Already I find that this change of focus makes a huge difference; my training is much more relaxing as I simply check whether my heart rate is where it should be, and then I look at the pace as an FYI. Today was a solid session.

I ran 27K in 2:12:14, or an average pace of 4:54 per K, with an average heart rate of 145.

As suggested, I made an effort to gradually pick up the pace. I took two splits, showing that I covered the first 14.06K in 70:04, averaging 4:59 per K and my heart rate at 144 beats per minute. The remaining 12.95K I ran in 62:10, averaging 4:48 per K at 148bpm. A great run that rounds up the first official week on the program, which was a very good one indeed.

My total mileage for the week was 104K; for the first 8 days of 2012, it was 131K.      

Next week has 109K in store for me; the most challenging run will be Sunday's as it calls for 27K including 13K at marathon goal race pace. First up is tomorrow's 10K recovery run.

January 07, 2012

Resolutions: chocolate, wine & training

Luka l o v e s the beach
A relaxed 10km was on the program today, so I asked Luka to join me. He was keen, of course. Luka loves to run, especially when there's sand, water and sticks involved. Alas, that wasn't the case this time; there was plenty of water but it was rain, rather than ocean or lake.

There was no beach either, though there were many trees and bushes to sniff along the way so we had a few short stops as I kept him on the leash.

It was nice to share a run which brought my total for the first week of 2012 to 104K. So far, so good; I love the feeling of having committed to the program with a clear focus. The training is more familiar now. Not that the sessions were complicated the first time around when I followed a similar structure for three months last year, but knowing what to expect has helped me prepare better.

It's always easy to be excited when starting something new, and it's important not to get carried away in the first week.

Among my resolutions for 2012 were to stop eating chocolate and to drink less red wine (i.e. stop having a glass before dinner). Well, I kept those until January 2; obviously I wasn't too serious about them.

What I am serious about is my training for the Vancouver marathon. Just having started the program, I am making a few changes to the way I approach it—call them resolutions if you like.

1. Easing into the program.

At the start of each new program, training toward a new and/or challenging goal, it's easy to get overexcited. Keen to improve on previous results and all fired up with renewed commitment, I know I've made the mistake of aiming for the top of a pace zone in the early sessions. Fresh legs with a fresh mind can get a little carried way.

This time, with 18 weeks of heavy training ahead, I've sharpened my expectations but am easing into meeting them by aiming for the easiest pace allowed in each session, finishing tired and within the parameters, but with a feeling that I could have run harder, instead of running myself into the ground the first week of the program.

2. Making time to plan and focus on the workout.

I am taking a few extra minutes to think through each session before I head out the door. I consider the route I am going to run, thinking through the best option for each workout. I recheck my heart rate target zones, and remind myself of No. 1; take it easy in the first few weeks of the program. I check that I am fuelled and hydrated for the session ahead and have something extra if I need it. I think about the workout's goal and how I am going to achieve it. I make sure the Garmin is charged, and the iPod too, if I'll take them.

None of the above is rocket science, it's just taking that little bit of extra time for a deep breath and making sure I know what I am going to be doing.

3. Taking it very easy on recovery runs.

This point goes back to No. 1 too; I also underestimated the challenge of the various sessions when I first followed a similar structure last year. While there are no super-fast sessions, the lactate threshold and marathon goal race pace workouts are demanding.

For example, next Sunday, my long run calls for 27K—the final 13K should be run at marathon goal race pace, i.e. 4:15 per K in my case. A challenge for sure.

4. Accepting the fatigue.

Being tired from training is not new to me. But I found last year, running record volume, that the fatigue I felt from training that much annoyed me at times. I resisted giving into it at first. Later I found that lying down, even for just 15 to 30 minutes after a session, made a huge difference. I also simply need to sleep at least eight hours every night.

So, now that I am going to run even more again, I am prepared to feel and be tired. It's simply the way it is. The yin and the yang; you run a lot, you're tired. To keep going, you must rest enough.

5. Simplifying life; focus.

Becoming who I am (34x42")
I used to paint. A lot. (Check out some photos here.) The second desk in my office is 'fully loaded' with acrylic and oil paints. There's a roll with metres of canvas waiting to be used. But at the moment I don't have the mental or physical energy to paint.

Last year I did one 'painting', reworking a large canvas to say, Always Believe 2:59. I like looking at it every day as it reminds me of a key goal. I may pick up a brush this year but don't expect to.

The same goes for the guitar. I did play last year, even took a superb blues jamming course in the summer and began a band with a few friends, though it soon turned out that making time to play together was challenging for all.

South Coast Track w. guitar
For several years I had practiced daily (and need plenty more). I was religious about it; when hiking the stunning and remote South Coast Track in the Southwest Wilderness of Tasmania with Tim and a couple of friends, I had strapped a guitar on top of my 25kg backpack so I could keep up the daily routine.

Incidentally, check out the great photo blog Tim created from that hike; we flew into Melaleuca and then hiked the 84K to Cockle Creek.

I'll get back to the paint and the guitar when I feel like doing so. They're just not a priority right now, and there's no need to feel guilty about that.

6. Riding the highs and focusing on the positives in the lows.

Some sessions feel awesome, like Tuesday's and Wednesday's this week. They aren't always going to feel like that. So that's why I take special note of the ones that feel effortless. On the days when my training isn't going as well as I'd like it to, sometimes simply having completed the session is the positive.

Monitoring your heart rate is a great way to remind yourself of the effort you've put in, even if the result (pace) wasn't what you had in mind.

7. Prioritizing.

For the next four months, my training is a top priority. I have never run daily but I've done enough training to know that this will be a major challenge. Aside from making the time to train and rest, I will no doubt need to make time for stretching, hot baths, self-massage with the TP Therapy set but also for creating the mental space needed to allow my mind to be rested enough for the next session.

8. Having fun.

This is not a new point; I run because I love it. But I always make sure I continue to enjoy the training. Or adjust it.

Tim, a passionate triathlete, is preparing for two half ironmans and an Olympic distance in the first part of 2012. He might skip Ironman for the second year in a row, as he's eyeing a fast marathon in the second half of 2012.

Tim, I & 50,000+ at 2001 City to Surf
Even as our training routines are very different, we typically share a run at least once a week. Training, racing and being fit have always been part and parcel of our life since we began sharing it eleven years ago. It's a fun lifestyle, and we always make sure to keep it that way, no matter how serious we are about our goals.

January 04, 2012

Invincible on medium long run

On the morning of the 2011 Victoria marathon, we had the hotel room's TV on a music channel as we were getting ready to go to the startline. Just before we left, Invincible by Hedley came on. I hadn't heard the song before but liked the title instantly:-).

I like Hedley because frontman singer-songwriter Jacob Hoggard seems to have so much passion and energy for his music.

We listened to the song until we had to leave and the Invincible tune was what I had in my head as Tim, Angelique (making her debut at the distance) and I jogged over to the start in Victoria. After running a marathon PB for the first time in three years, you can imagine why hearing this song makes me happy. I added it to my iPod this morning before getting ready to do my medium-long run,which today was 19km.

Again, I took some time to make sure the course I had in mind was the correct distance, so I didn't have to think about it, as it was another rainy day (with a rainfall warning for our Howe Sound area). It was also a balmy day (9 degrees C), and I decided shorts would do; I'm certainly loving this wet mild West Coast winter for my training.

The program recommends doing medium-long run at a similar pace as the long run. After a hard session the previous day (as I did yesterday with the lactate threshold workout), it recommends staying near the slower end of the intensity range, given as between about 74 and 84 percent of max heart rate and between 10 and 20 percent below marathon goal race pace.

For me that works out to between 4:41 to 5:06 per km (marathon goal race pace is 4:15 per km) and, assuming my max HR is near 184, between 136 and 155.

The run was great, even as I got absolutely soaked, and I did feel pretty invincible. According to Mr Garmin, I ran 19.25km at an average pace of 5:07 per km and an average heart rate of 141 beats per minute. Right on target.

January 03, 2012

Lactate threshold runs

On Sunday, as I lounged on the couch recovering from my long run the day before officially beginning my 18-week program in preparation for the Vancouver marathon, I thought it worthwhile to re-read the advice on why and how to do each of the sessions with the benefit of having followed the training structure for three months late last year.

My training is similar to what I did for my most recent marathon(s), except that I am starting my Advanced Marathoning program six weeks earlier by following an 18-week version and it's the next size up with a higher weekly volume (113-137km, from 88-113km).

This first week is as follows:
Mon recovery 8km
Tues lactate threshold 14km incl 6km at half-marathon race pace
Wed medium-long run 19km
Thur recovery 10km
Fri general aerobic 16km
Sat recovery 10km
Sun long run 27km

Details can make all the difference in preparing for and executing a training session. So I revisited the explanations on each type of session, and decided what that meant in terms of pacing this time around;  2011 was my best running year hands down, in which I improved my marathon PR from 2008 by 64 seconds.

While I didn't improve my 10km and half marathon PBs, also from 2008, I believe I am starting 2012 in my best shape ever and am aiming to up the ante in my training by targetting a faster half-marathon and marathon goal race pace. (Of course the key is being able to achieve those goals, but the first step is feeling confident enough to commit to trying.)

This time I am planning to use a heart rate monitor, particularly in the sessions at half-marathon and marathon race pace, and the long runs. Nearly all my training from 2001 until 2005, mainly as a triathlete, was done based on heart rate, which taught me a lot about pacing and what different levels of effort, as defined by the target heart-rate zones, usually 4 or 5, feel like in beats per minute.

As my next coach didn't focus on heart rate, I haven't paid attention to it since then. One important reason for me to start using it now is Mr Garmin. Since using it, I've found myself getting stressed and/or annoyed when Mr Garmin's assessment of my pace didn't correspond to what I thought it was and/or the level of effort I felt I was putting in.

Sometimes it was simply the weather or my surrounds that made Mr Garmin less reliable, other times it was my own tiredness from training that caused my pace to fall short. Using heart rate is an excellent way to help guide and gauge your sessions. Since Mr Garmin is measuring distance, pace, etc, already, I've decided to add my beats per minute to the mix.

Today's session was a lactate threshold run, defined in Advanced Marathoning as " tempo runs in which you run for at least 20 minutes at your lactate-threshold pace. This corresponds closely with your current 15K to half marathon race pace. For most marathoners, this pace range corresponds with about 82 to 91 percent of maximal heart rate."

I dug up some facts from the past. On July 11, 2001, I had a lactate threshold transition test done in Sydney, Australia. I ran on a treadmill set at a 1 percent gradient. Temperature was 20 degrees Celsius. My lactate threshold point then was measured at 13.0 kph, my heart rate at 170, while my anaerobic threshold point was measured at 14.6 kph, with my HR there at 170. My max heart rate was measured at 184 while I ran, briefly, at 18.0 kph.

That was, of course, 10 years ago.

Another measurement was from the 2003 Gold Coast Marathon, during which I lowered my PB for the distance from 4:11 to 3:24, my average heart rate was 168, according to my notes from that race.

Your heart rate (including the max) drops with age. On the flipside, as you get fitter (and there's no doubt I am much fitter now than in July 2001), you can longer sustain running at a higher heart rate.

Based on my max heart rate as measured in 2001, my heart rate should stay between about 150 to 167 during lactate threshold runs. Confirming that those are the right numbers for me indeed, is a matter of recording my heart rate in training (though, of course, I could also get another test done). 

After warming up for 5km, I had a 6km effort at half marathon race pace, followed by a 3km cooldown.

I made sure to ease into the speedy part as it's early in the season (another reminder I picked up from re-reading advice on the training); I felt good throughout, and was pleased with 25:13:30, an average of 4:12/km (or a 88:48 half marathon), for the 6km effort. My average heart rate was 162, acccording to Mr Garmin. Seems that zone still works pretty well.

A few more notes on lactate threshold training:

In Alberto Salazar's Guide to Road Racing, Salazar says "... the bottom line is that you can train your body to be more efficient in its use of lactic acid [or lactate]. This shifts the lactic acid threshold to higher speeds - preparing you to race that much more quickly. Because this shift in lactic acid threshold is a separate effect from changes in VO2max or improvements in running efficiency, it gives you a third variable on which to target your training."

In The Competitive Runner's Handbook, Bob Glover and Shelly-lynn Florence Glover say, "Lactate threshold training is primarily at a pace slightly slower than 10K race pace (15K to half marathon pace). Tempo runs are the most effective way to improve lactate threshold. These workouts are particularly important for half-marathon and marathon training, but still valuable for 5Ks and 10Ks."

January 02, 2012

Easy runs

The first day of the Advanced Marathoning schedule I'll be following for the next 18 weeks to prepare for the Vancouver marathon began with an 8km recovery run. I chose a lap around the neighbourhood, took my iPod but left my watch at home.

The trick with these runs is to do them slow enough.

My legs were light following yesterday's 27km. Keeping in mind tomorrow's 14km session, which includes 6km at half marathon race pace, I made sure to take it easy enough; it would have been easy to crank up the speed a little but I knew I'd regret that tomorrow.

I used yesterday's post-run time on the couch to re-read the advice on the various sessions. For example, long runs are meant to be done at between 10% and 20% below marathon goal race pace i:e. 4:15/km or 6:51 per mile, which works out to between 4:41/km to 5:06/km (7:32/mile to 8:12/mile). That means I need to run next week's 27km in 2:17, or - ideally - a little quicker.

As for my half marathon race pace workouts, I'll be targetting 4:05/km to 4:10/km. That means that I'll aim to cover tomorrow's 6km in 24:30 to 25-flat. I'll bring a heartrate monitor to track the effort. While I'm looking forward to the session, I'm also pretty sure that it will provide good motivation to take all recovery runs very easy.

January 01, 2012

Starting 2012 with a 27km run

Tim, doggy Luka and I began the year with a family run. The three of us did a peaceful 15km lap along some of the quiet forest service roads between Valleycliffe and Quest University. The remaining kilometres of my long run were up to me alone. As Tim and Luka got home to stay, I made a quick stop for a drink of water and a gel.

It's always tough to do that, and I typically try to avoid it, as the willpower melts as soon as the cosy warmth of the house envelops the sweaty runner. Even on a beautiful winterday as it was today, with temperatures just cold enough for a brief flurry of tiny snowflakes, I needed to gather myself before I was able to head back out again.

There were another 11km left for me as my plan was for a 26km run. As I mapped the distance of the route I had in mind as an excuse to postpone my departure, a route where I wouldn't be able to give in to laziness and turn home early, I wondered if I could avoid a final uphill back to Valleycliffe. A silly question, as I know I cannot.

It was time to go. I grabbed my iPod and pressed play; Adele's Set Fire to the Rain greeted me, spurring me on to head out the door now before I'd give in to the inertia of sitting behind my computer checking a distance to avoid running it.   

Grabbing the New Balance REVlite 890s, I retied the laces. As soon as I hit the road, a second wind came over me. Without a watch, I listened to Adele's great voice and the muffled sound of the rhythm of my feet hitting the ground, and strode into a separate universe.

Certain songs, a certain pace and a certain willingness can do that to a runner; especially in the latter half of a long run. It's one of the many things I love about running; you can disappear into another world that's competely your own.

That's where I lingered in the final 12km (yes, I ended up covering an extra km) of my run today, and Adele was right there with me the whole way, as I marvelled at the amazing strength that dwells in our bodies if we are willing to invest a little time regularly to find and cultivate it.

As much as I sometimes seem to struggle to head out the door, I am time and again reminded of the joys that lie ahead when I do. 

There will be plenty of couch time!
I spent the rest of the day happily and contently tired, realizing I have never started an 18-week marathon training program with a long run already at 27km. (I also resigned myself to the fact that I am going to stay tired, in varying degrees, for the next 18 weeks.)

A new year is always a great incentive to embark on positive changes, no matter how small as those too can snowball into something big. It's a clean slate, full of aspirations and dreams, not unlike the start of a new marathon progam; mine officially begins tomorrow with an 8km recovery run. 

A Happy New Year and I hope 2012 brings you everything you hope for!