February 29, 2012

A thousand kilometres so far in 2012

A fresh dump of snow overnight turned the start of February 29 into a sparkling white experience. By midday the rising temperature was quickly melting the winter landscape away. By the time I headed out for today's 25K run, the roads were mostly clear, though many sidewalks weren't.

As the sun lit up the surrounding snow-covered mountains during my run from Valleycliffe to Brackendale, and back, it was a spectacular day to finish the first two months of training in 2012.

I have spent the past two months running more than ever. And I have kept a daily record; in the first 60 days of this year I covered 1,017 kilometres.

I ran 498K in the month of January, followed by 519K in the month of February (including today's 25K). That's an average of 16.95K a day.

With the exception of January 14, I have run every day so far this year. Taking that rest day into account, I have done an average of 17.2K on each of the 59 days I did run in 2012.

Some of my sessions have been challenging, but I have enjoyed the vast majority of them. My body has surprised me more than once, though most quantifiably in the First Half Marathon on February 12, where I ran a personal record of 46 seconds for the 21.1K distance to finish in 87:27.

It was 2 minutes and 17 seconds faster than I completed the same race, on the same course, a year earlier.

The First Half was also the provincial road running half marathon championship and, as it turned out, I won the F40-44 age group (for these results they use the gun time rather than the net time, hence the 4-second difference).

Great rewards for training that I am enjoying very much.

February 27, 2012

Energy returns in 132K week

A record week of running. Again.

It didn't start out so well, as I still seemed to lacked energy initially; last Sunday I had cut my long run short, from the planned 32K to 24K, because I felt a little off. Not sick enough to skip the session entirely but even the shorter one had been a struggle.

February 23, 2012

Amazon Breakthough Novel Contest Award

From my Mother, my first novel, made it through the first round in the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest Award in the young adult fiction category.

To make it into the second round, manuscripts were evaluated on a written pitch of no more than 300 words. Here's what helped me get selected: 

February 20, 2012

Invincible, except on Sunday's long run

In New Zealand clouds (2005)
After setting a personal record for the half marathon distance on Sunday for the first time in four years, improving it by 46 seconds to 87:27, I have been running on clouds the past week. I felt that the training I've been doing - bigger volume and less intensity - suited me; I'm very much enjoying the training and I've been feeling strong.

For the first time I am running every day. I've been doing so since the start of the year, which is 50 days now. I had wondered if that was a smart thing to do but by now I feel that the three weekly recovery runs are very beneficial.

And to get confirmation of my fitness through such a big PB has of course been extra motivating. (Thanks to the Squamish Chief's Ben Lypka for this article on the race.)

February 16, 2012

'A strong pick' - Midwest Book Review

I was thrilled to find that Midwest Book Review agreed to read and review my latest book, and first novel. Here's the verdict:

"In honor of those who came before us, we try to understand their plight. From my Mother is a novel following Nadia, as she faces a major marathon, looking back into her family's history and struggles to survive. She thinks of her grandmother who fled a communist revolution all those years ago, and looks to understand her, and the struggles we face through generations. From my Mother is a strong pick for world fiction collections."

— Micah Andrew for Midwest Book Review

February 14, 2012

Back to training - lactate threshold

After running a PB, especially one that has taken four years and is a big one on top of that, motivation for training is high. Having upped both my volume and frequency, running well over 100K a week in daily runs, my result at Sunday's half marathon has given me much confidence that I've chosen the right training for my current level of fitness, frame of mind and goals.

It's very important to believe and trust in your training.

I felt great during yesterday's double recovery session - I ran 11K in the morning and 5K in the afternoon. The stunning weather didn't hurt my mood either.

Today called for 18K including 8K at 15K to half marathon race pace. While feeling good following  Sunday's half marathon PB, I wasn't sure what to expect but was glad to cover the 8K at 4:10 per K average and an average heart rate of 160bpm.

I am looking forward to a 24K session tomorrow.

February 12, 2012

One for the record books

My plan for the First Half Marathon was to use it as a marathon race pace training session for the Vancouver Marathon on May 6, which is my key goal race for the first half of 2012. As mentioned in a previous post, my session today called for running 16K (10 miles) at 4:15 per K (or 6:50 per mile) as part of the race.

Then I would be free to run whatever I pleased for the remaining 5.1K (1.1 mile); if I felt good, I'd sustain or perhaps even pick up my speed. If I felt tired, such as from this week's 108K including the half marathon, I'd allow myself to 'jog' home.

Of course I hoped to finish in 90 minutes or less, especially after the organizers were so kind to give me a competitive start spot by exchanging the BIB-number 841 of my transferred entry, after I had forgotten to register for the competitive slot offered to me because of my 2011 89:46 by the January 14 deadline.

(The race offers elite and competitive entries; the latter is for men who ran sub-80, women who ran sub-90, or those who finished top 3 in their age group in the two previous editions. In fact, the awesome woman who agreed to give me the competitive BIB #190 told me on Friday night, smiling, You'd better prove me right and finish sub-90!) 

Tim, racing though not race fit, and I left Squamish early to meet Angelique, who's also maintained a low-volume running regime since her debut marathon in October, at her place which is less than a K from the start. We did a warm-up, which we decided to cut short to two minutes because of the rain, before going up to Angelique's apartment.

We left her place at 20 minutes before the start, then wished each other well after another short warm-up that included a few easy strides. Then it was time to line up, listen to Oh Canada and get started.

I knew I'd likely be a little too fast in the first mile, as this amazing field starts at a cracking pace, and wasn't surprised to see 6:36. I settled into a pace that was a touch slower, though missed seeing the 2- & 3-mile markers. The weather was perfect; cool, with some light rain in the early stages of the race. I was glad to have only worn a sleeveless top, though did wear capri tights (Under Armour's amazing so-called heat gear) with knee-high compression socks.

While I was keeping an eye on staying on my 6:50 mile plan for the first 10 miles, I also focused on how I felt. After another 20:15, I hit the 4-mile mark, and realized I felt strong and comfortable. It wasn't a walk in the park but my pace, though requiring effort, seemed well within my ability today.

I had taken a cup of water at the first aid station and had a gel somewhere around 4 miles as we began circling Stanley Park with its stunning vistas. 'Stay comfortable' became my mantra. It reminded me that I was comfortable, and needed to keep on a pace that allowed me to feel that way.

I focused on maintaining my pace, which was a touch quicker than 6:50 I realized, as I did the math quickly at each mile marker (5 x 7 = 35 minutes, minus 5 x 10 seconds = 34:50, and compared it to the time on my watch, which was 34:33. A little fast but, again, I felt good, comfortable.)

By this point, I was running with a guy who I'd end up sharing the rest of the race with. We didn't speak. The only thing I said the entire race was, Thank you, when he thoughtfully gave me space to avoid a puddle of water. (Actually, I also said or mouthed Thank you to the volunteer who handed me water at aid stations.)

By 10K it was time for another cup of water and another gel. I was just shy of 42 minutes, a little faster than the 42:30 I was aiming for, but I was still comfortable in line with my mantra of the day, 'Stay comfortable.'

I was focused, felt relaxed and strong. Would it last? I believed it would. At each mile marker I saw, I hit the lap button, mostly for a record of my splits afterward. To gauge my progress, I kept doing the math by multiplying the number on the mile marker by 7, and then substracting the same number times 10 seconds from it, and compared it with the overall time displayed on my watch.

Time and miles seemed to be flying by. I hit the halfway point at 44 minutes (give or take a couple of seconds); 88 minutes flashed in my mind but I immediately pushed away that thought. I was 1 minute ahead of my planned pace, the 4:15 per K or 6:50 per mile marathon goal race pace, after all and I clearly remembered doing the math a year ago at exactly the same point.

In 2011 I hit the halfway mark in 43 minutes, prompting visions of an 86-minute finish, before dying at about 16K - after rounding a pretty pond - and finishing in 89:46. So I refocused on maintaining my pace and level of comfort; it was all about the 16K at marathon goal pace. I still felt strong.

When I hit that pond, and the painful memory of last year's race, I had another gel which I'd saved for the occasion. I still felt good, so good I missed the 10-mile marker (16K) which signalled the end of my key goal for the race. I was supposed to hit that in 68:20. When I checked my watch again, I was at 71 minutes and knew I had missed the marker.

My main goal for the race was accomplished and, feeling strong, I decided it was time to see if I could pick it up a little for the remaining 4-1/2K. As I accelerated, I still felt strong, though slowly but surely less comfortable. That was OK, however, as there were only 2 miles left to go.

Though I knew it was there, I had forgotten about the nasty uphill incline in that final kilometre before the finish, but thankfully it didn't feel as steep as it had last year.

I see 87 on the clock Rita Ivanauskas
Now there was just a 500-metre stretch to the finish left and I gave it all I had. Volker, a fellow runner from Squamish, said, That'll be a PB for sure, but I didn't have the breath to respond.

As I crossed the line, I wasn't sure about the seconds but had very clearly seen the minutes: 87.

Eighty seven!

It was 5-1/2 years ago that I first ran sub-90 (89:29 in the Sydney half marathon) but until today I had only run faster than 89:16 twice; that was 88:13 in the 2008 Sunshine Coast Half Marathon and 88:30 in the 2010 Scotiabank Half Marathon. My official net finish time for today turned out to be 87:27, a personal best by 46 seconds. I couldn't be happier with that result and the way I felt during today's race.

I looked for the guy I'd spent more than half the race with. We highfived and congratulated each other; it was a PB for him too.

As a bonus, my PB earned me 2nd place in the F40-44 age group (behind Lisa Harvey who was second overall with a blistering 1:18:43.)

My splits were: 6:36, 20:15 (an average of 6:45 for three miles), 6:42. 6:52, 6:43, 6:43, 20:13 (an average of 6:44 for three miles), 6:22 and 7:02 for the final 1.1 mile.

Tim and Angelique both had solid races too, finishing in 93:30 and 2:11 (Angelique's 3rd half marathon), and were happy to establish their current level of fitness as a benchmark to step up their training for the next race, the Sunshine Coast Half Marathon on April 1.

Dylan Wykes improved his own course record to 64:21 as he prepares for the Lake Biwa marathon in Japan in three weeks where he hopes to secure a qualifying time  (2:11:29 or better) for the Olympics in London, while Natasha Fraser was the female winner in 1:16:17.

More inspiring performances came from Betty Jean McHugh who, at the age of 84, ran 2:26 and Frank Kurucz who, at the age of 80, did 2:07. Or how about Carol Peters (F60-64) with 1:43 or Scott Stewart (M60-64) with 84:53. Mark Bennett set a new course record for the M50-54 division with 73:46.

(Check out the full 2012 First Half Marathon results here.)

I am on a high and looking forward to a big week of training; 135K starting with tomorrow's double recovery run, 10K in the morning and 6K in the afternoon.

February 10, 2012

Proof is in the pudding, erm pacing

In last year's First Half I had hoped, and expected, to break 89 minutes. And I seemed well on track to do so, hitting the halfway mark in 43 minutes. However, it took only three more miles before I ran out of steam, and needed all my willpower to finish in 89:46.

I had a look at my race report from the 2010 edition, you can read it here, and found the following splits:

I had 12:52 for the first 2 miles (average 6:26 per mile), then 6:43, 6.49, 6.49, 6.46, 6.44, 6.42, 6.49, 6.52, 7.03. Then I ran the final 2.1 miles in 15:34, or about 7:22 per mile.

It's a good reminder of a few things:
- with a competitive field, the start of this race is fast
- the course is marked in miles, rather than kilometres, so make sure you know your pace in miles if you're going to be taking splits;
- a finish time alone doesn't tell the whole story of a race. Last year the first half of the First Half took me 43 minutes, and the second took me at least 46. The other way around would have felt much better;
- this year my goal is to use it as a key training session for the Vancouver Marathon, rather than race it as fast as I can. I want to do the first 10 miles at 6:50 per mile (my Vancouver Marathon goal race pace). That means hitting 10km in 42:30 and 10 miles in 68:20. Then I am free to do as I feel; I am hoping to feel good enough to pick it up in the final 3 miles.

February 09, 2012

Ready for First Half Marathon

This Sunday I'm running the First Half Marathon in Vancouver, organized by the Pacific Road Runners. It's my third time competing in this event.

The 2012 edition was firmly set on my race calendar for months, so much so that I completely forgot the not-so-minor-detail of accepting my entry slot.

The race, capped at 2,000 runners, sells out in hours. However, the organizers offer elite and competitive entries. The latter is for athletes who ran sub-80 (for men) sub-90 (for women), or finished top 3 in their age group in the two previous editions. But these athletes still need to register; somehow I didn't and by the time I realized this, last week, it was too late.

Thankfully, they do offer transfers (for a fee of $20) and I gratefully bought a slot from a fellow runner in town who no longer planned to do the event (thanks Kathryn). Pfew! I don't plan to race all out (though it might end up feeling just like it as I'll explain) but to use it as one of my marathon goal race pace sessions that's on my schedule this week: it calls for 26K including 16K at marathon goal pace, which for me is an ambitious 4:15 per K.

My main focus of training is the BMO Vancouver Marathon in May.
These marathon race pace workouts, I have found, are exceptionally tough to do on your own. So I'd rather pay $80 to share the experience with a couple of thousand others, which should make it easier. Easier than really hard is still going to be pretty tough, though.

My fastest half marathon time ever is 88:13 (2008 Sunshine Coast Half Marathon), which is a pace of 4:11 per K. Aside from running an 88:30 in the 2010 Scotiabank Half Marathon in Vancouver, it has been my fastest time by more than a minute for the distance in any other event.

The first time I broke 90 minutes for 21.1K was in September 2006, when I ran 89:29 in the Sydney Half Marathon (then a PB by 3 minutes for the distance). Three months later I ran 89:16 to win the Central Coast Half Marathon, another PB and my second-fastest time to this day. 

Next I did the May 2007 SMH Sydney Half Marathon where a sudden vicious stitch reduced me to a jog resulting in a 96:43. Four months later I did a 'half marathon' in the Netherlands in 2007 that turned out be 21.6K, which I ran in 92:10 on a shockingly windy and wet day on an exposed pancake-flat course in the province of Friesland.

In 2008, as mentioned I ran my half marathon PB.

In 2009, I ran the First Half in 89:39 and last year I finished the event in 89:46, both at an average pace of 4:15 per K. In June 2010, I ran 88:30 in the Scotiabank Half Marathon, a 4:12 average, and in 2011 I ran the Scotiabank Half in 89:44, another 4:15 average.

So, I am curious to see how doing Sunday's race as a marathon race pace session will feel. I am completely focused on running the first 16K at 4:15 per K pace; I'll decide on what to with the final 5.1K when it's time to run them.

Writing this post made me realize that I've not raced that many standalone half marathons (I've done at least a dozen of them as part of half Ironman races).

My first one was in October 1998, the Canadian International Half Marathon in Toronto. I finished in 2:04:44 and don't remember much about it. The second was in February 2000, the Peterborough Half Marathon in Ontario, which I ran in 1:54:10. Then I did a bunch of the distance in half Ironman races. My next half marathon was in Lake Macquarie, Australia, in August 2002, where I was stoked to run 95:35.

I also remember that as soon as I finished this race the outside bottom of my left foot was so sore I had trouble walking; I had been absolutely fine during the race. After seeing a GP, who of course advised at least a couple of weeks off running and having Xrays done, both of which I did, a deep tissue massage therapist only needed one session to release a tight muscle along my shin that turned out to be the cause of the pain. Simple.

In May 2003 I ran the SMH Sydney Half Marathon in 1hr 43, though I can't remember why it was so much slower though possibly I was still being careful after having done Ironman Australia about six weeks earlier, before finishing the September half marathon in Sydney in 92:38, a whopping PB by 3 minutes.

Within two weeks, I had an ITB injury that stopped me from running altogether for a few weeks and couldn't be fixed by the deep tissue massage therapist. This eventually led me to ART, a treatment I've used successfully ever since to ward off problems, though my budget allows fewer sessions these days.

Yesterday I had an excellent 45-minute ART treatment from Dr Leah Stadelmann of Chief Chiropractic in Squamish to release the tightness in my calves. You can see why half marathon races make me nervous about injury:-).

In May 2005 I did another SMH Half Marathon, fresh off the plane and returning to Australia after recovering from Ironman New Zealand in early March by hiking around New Zealand for a few months. I have yet to find a note of my time that day.

In September 2005, I did another Sydney Half Marathon, still suffering after walking 100K in 23hr 45min in Sydney Oxfam Trailwalker, in 1hr 40. Trailwalker was a last-minute opportunity and I had already signed up for that half.

In late August 2006, I ran the Lake Macquarie half marathon again, this time finishing in 92:51, only three weeks before first breaking 90 minutes for the distance. The half marathon is an intriguing event for sure and I am very much looking forward to Sunday.

New shoes: ECCO BIOM Trail

My feet have enjoyed a pair of ECCO BIOM Trail shoes for the past two days. On Monday, I ran an easy 9K on a combination of road and trail, and today I did 17K in them, most of which on trail.

My first impressions of these shoes, provided to me by ECCO, a Danish shoemaker with almost five decades of experience, are very positive in terms of comfort and feel, and I am looking forward to putting more miles on them.

According to ECCO, this model is part of their so-called Natural Motion products.

"The BIOM Trail shoe translates ECCO's advanced Natural Motion system for the needs of offroad running, featuring more support, tougher construction and aggressive mult-terrain action. The shoe strengthens the feet and lower legs and increases running efficiency.

"The basis of BIOM Natural Motion is to provide anatomical cushioning while guiding the body to move naturally and to strengthen," according to ECCO, which has been offering running shoes since 2009.

I didn't know ECCO made running shoes and have to say that so far I'm quite liking these. I don't know about the above claims and don't necessarily care; my running shoes are a big deal to me and the proof is always in the pudding.

How much wear they get is how good I consider them to be for my feet and the type of running I'm doing. I'm not a hardcore trailrunner but cover plenty of trails in my training.

Since I reviewed a pair of New Balance REVlite 890s (for IMPACT Magazine) about a year ago, I have fallen absolutely in love with them and am onto my third pair now. These are road shoes, of course, but I wear them on the trails I cover here too.

Like I had with the REVlites, I felt love at first fit with these BIOM ECCO Trail shoes. Let's see if this romance turns into a long-term relationship. I'll keep you posted.

February 06, 2012

Record running volume

I love broadening, and painting, my horizons
Strangely enough, I have never been a consistent record keeper of my run training. One reason was that from June 2005 until April 2010 I received a spreadsheet that detailed my sessions. And I was pretty diligent about doing all my training so I figured that the program was my diary.

A friend who visited us from Australia to run the Whistler 50 in November helped change my mind; he carried with him, like a treasure, a thick diary with one day to a page in which he detailed, among other things, his running. Some pages were completely filled, others only had a couple of sentences or even just a few words.

Especially the latter was a revelation to me, as I have kept plenty of diaries with notes on all sorts of things but rarely daily for a consistent period of time as I always believed I should write a lot, fill the page, or not bother. Of course you might not have that much to write every day, or not make the time, and once I missed a day, or three, I'd lose the motivation because the chain was broken.

I'd never considered the freedom of saying very little, like simply writing "Ran 30K, felt great", if that's all I had to say.

Another reason for keeping a record now is that I own a Garmin, as of June last year. I can effortlessly  keep track of the distance I run, as well as average pace, heart rate, etc. So since December 3, 2010, I've been keeping a diary of my run training and, with permission to write the briefest of entries, I've got a daily record.

So far I have filled most of each page every day as the permission to write as little as I want invariably means I have more to say than I initially thought. Writing daily in my training diary is a new habit I very much enjoy, especially now that I'm running daily for the first time and am covering more distance too.

In the past week, I ran the most I've ever done in one training week, covering 129.5K. The spectacular weather helped to make it very enjoyable. My calves are tight, but other than that, I am feeling great.

Whenever we try new things, we likely have expectations that are based on old experiences so we can expect to be surprised. My body showed me on a few occasions this past week that it was not as fatigued from the record mileage as my mind thought it was; even though my mind didn't change its mind about being tired, my body kept moving as if it wasn't. It was my body resisting the fatigue, rather than my mind which is what I've been used to.

It's the continued string of such discoveries and the dynamic nature of being a runner that keeps me motivated. I love being in motion, especially when you feel its momentum.

February 04, 2012

A runner's third degree

A gorgeous Friday had me run in shorts for the second day in a row. Admittedly, Thursday had also been a day in shorts because my tights and capris were in the laundry room, though the sun was nice enough then too. Yesterday was the first real hint of spring.

It was just beautiful. Teens were walking around in T-shirts and people were out walking their dogs and riding their bikes. I was tired, what's new, but am learning that daily runs are best absorbed without too many expectations about how difficult they might feel. On today's menu was 21K, which I started with a caffeine gel shortly after noon.

I brought another caf gel but chose to risk being a little thirsty by the end of the session over carrying a bottle of water. I opted for a route that allowed me to run mostly on soft trails. First I took the trail in Valleycliffe that runs along the Stawamus river from the end of our street toward the Sea to Sky Highway, before following the trail from the Adventure Centre to Brennan Park.

As has been the case recently, the tiredness I felt before (and, as it turned out, after) the training dropped away once I started running and I easily adopted the rhythm I run most of my weekly kilometres at (this week, for example, I am doing 24K, 21K and a 29K sessions in this pace range, for a total of 74K from the 126K, or 59 percent of the weekly volume.)

After about 6K I ran into the owner of our doggy daycare, who is also a superb dog trainer. Her son was racing a tiny bike as she followed on hers, with a soccerball tied on the back of it. She stopped me, apologizing for interrupting my run, and asked if Luka, our dog, would be interested in a photoshoot as some company was looking for some "mutts".

Keeping one eye on the kid, who was impatiently waiting and yelling 200 metres further down the trail, she quickly tried to explain what was involved. I didn't think of stopping my watch, so I am not sure how long we chatted; at least 2, but less than 5, minutes I believe.

After picking up my pace again, I soon followed the road underneath the highway and took the dyke trail that meanders along the Squamish River, passing the West Coast Railway Heritage Park. Here I came across a man and a woman with about four dogs, of which three ignored me but one was keen to say hello. As I stopped to pet the blonde four-legged cutie, the woman asked me, I forget in which order:

Do you live here? (Yes, how about you?)
I live in North Van but come here with my dog as I love to walk these trails. (Yes, it's gorgeous here.)
Do you belong to a fitness club? (No, I am a marathon runner.)
Do you run every day? (Yes.)
Oh, does your back bother you? And joints? (No but I do get tight so you have to take care of it with Epsom Salt baths and massages.)
And, as I had put my earphones back in and was back running about 50 metres ahead, she yelled after me: Are you happy? (Yes!)

She seemed nice and this conversation had taken place in the briefest of moments as she shot questions at me, while I petted her very enthusiastic dog who was trying to kiss me. As I smiled about the interrogation while half closing my eyes as I ran towards the February sun, I was pretty sure I would see her again after turning around after another kilometre to run the same way back.

And indeed. As her dog greeted me even happier this time, and as I quickly stopped Mr Garmin this time, she asked whether I drank alcohol, ate protein - meat?! I asked if she ran, Oh no, she said, I am too big up here, pointing to her chest, but she loved walking. Her statement, I felt, was wrapped in a subtle question.

I told her I believed that anyone can run if they feel like doing so. Walking is the way to start, and then slowly add brief stretches of running. I stressed the importance of easing into running gradually, telling her about my 62-year-old friend who had recently begun running but who, I found, was nearly sprinting for 30 seconds rather than jogging. Easy does it.

Even after menopause? At my age? Absolutely. I told her about the running coach I interviewed for Running Shoes Are a Girl's Best Friend, and how people who struggle to run a 400-metre lap around a track are stunned to find they can run 4K after a six-week Learn to Run clinic. I didn't carry business cards, nor did I mention the title of the book, as it was a brief conversation.

As we went our separate ways, I later thought I could have pointed her to her local library in North Vancouver. Oh well. I didn't want to sell her on my books but on the fact that if she's interested in running, it's never too late to start.

In fact, I just spotted this new book and talk on February 9: Octogenarian BJ McHugh, who started running in her 50s, has entered more than 300 races and has set more than 30 world records for her age. She continues to enter half and full marathons to this day, and can often be seen running in her current hometown of North Vancouver, BC.

As a passionate runner, I don't want to preach my religion. But if you're interested, I want you to know that you can (always check with your GP first, of course). I'm part of a project of a local university student who, among other things, asked us to to share Life Wisdom, answering the question: If there was one thing that you could teach either to a small child or all of society, what would it be?

I would ask you to move on your own account, and to do so regularly; walk or run. Our bodies are made for walking and running. If we don't use it, we lose a part of who we are. We lose access to who we are. Using our body allows us to tap into a vast amount of knowledge and experience that is stored there.

By using our body, we learn to marvel at its capability. We feel gratitude for being. We sense the deep mystery of nature that is ours to discover as we unfold our own by using the body we were given.

Moving, through walking or running, shakes loose an awareness that we only find when we use our muscles, joints and bones, as we feel the heart pump the blood around our veins, more forcefully and with full dedication as we propel ourselves forward at a pace of our own choosing.

There is a vast expanse of ability few of us ever use to its full potential, the way our ancestors did and knew they were supposed to do. Most of us have no idea what our bodies would allow us to do if we used them more often, and more regularly. By using them, simply, not in a competitive way unless we want to, we find out. And we become curious to see what more is there.    

And yesterday, I read this quote by Desi Davila, who last month secured her spot on the 2012 USA Olympic team to race the marathon at the Games in London, on LetsRun.com, an entry from her journal in December 2006:

"Rarely are we ever satisfied with our performances. Even after our best races we might be content for a moment, but it is in our nature to constantly over-analyze and re-evaluate, finding seconds on the course, flaws in our race plans, what ifs… should haves… and could haves. Are we ever satisfied? There is a competitive mentality that keeps us coming back for more, day after day, race after race, and year after year…

"Odds are I’ll never wear an Olympic medal around my neck, but maybe…just maybe, I will. With that in mind I’ll take off down the road and put in the days work. If we don’t try we’ll never know. At least I can find out how good I can be. I can have an answer at the end of the days, and have a hell of a good time with the process."

I will never go to the Olympics (as an athlete; I have been as an accredited reporter for the Olympic News Service), nor do I expect break to any world records. But, aside from the joy I get from running, I am deeply motivated to find out what I am capable of.

I ended up covering the 21K in 1:46:43, which included my chat to the dog trainer and the first encounter with the woman mentioned above, an average pace of 5:05 per K at an average heart rate of 134bpm.

February 03, 2012

Write letters

More details
I just came across this A Month of Letters challenge,which sounds very neat. It works as follows:
  1. In the month of February, mail at least one item through the post every day it runs. Write a postcard, a letter, send a picture, or a cutting from a newspaper, or a fabric swatch.
  2. Write back to everyone who writes to you. This can count as one of your mailed items.

February 01, 2012

When a runner's body takes over

Today I had a 24K session. In this type of run, I am aiming for a pace average of between 4:41 per K and 5:06 per K, which is 10 to 20 percent below my marathon goal race pace of 4:15 per K (which would get me across the finish in 2:59:xx.)

I felt tired at the start, which didn't surprise me, for several reasons. First, I am running a lot.

Second, yesterday's was a lactate threshold session, which I had done at night because the Squamish Titans, a multisport club I am a member of, held its monthly 5K time trial, or race, whatever you'd like to call it. Since my 16K included 6K at 15K to half marathon race pace, I opted to do the 5K with the group as it's more fun and mentally easier to chase others.

I would simply tack another kilometre at the end of the 5K and resist the temptation to race all out; I was aiming for 15K to half marathon pace, not 5K speed. I warmed up by running the 9K to the meeting point from home; it was dark and rainy, and a nice temperature for running.

With the group, a total of 16 plus the coach, we warmed up for another 2K and did three striders.

As everyone settled into their chosen pace and effort, I ran stride for stride with Andrew, another Titan, which was great as he even generously did the extra kilometre with me. We covered 5.89K in 23:59, or a pace of 4:06. My average heart rate was 162bpm. Perfect!

I ended up running 18K in total last night. On Monday, I had covered 16K after Sunday's 32K; including today's 24K, that's 90K in four days. Yeah, I had reason to feel tired today.

But as I got into a rhythm on the sunny trails, making my way to the dyke that runs along the Squamish River as it heads toward the Spit and the Estuary, a beautiful area offering spectacular views of the Howe Sound and the Chief, I noticed that as my mind was busy thinking about being tired, my body was showing that it didn't matter.

My legs kept moving in a smooth rhythm and Mr Garmin told me that my pace was exactly where it should be. My body had taken over to show that the fatigue I felt didn't mean that I needed to move at a slower pace; I was comfortable under 5:00 per K, and my heart rate was in the mid 130s.

As I wondered over the next few K whether this would only be a short burst of energy before I'd hit the inevitable wall, my legs kept moving at the same clip. So I relaxed and went along with it; I still felt tired but my body had taken charge and showed that it was firmly in control.

After a slow start - I ran the first 5.5K in a little over 30 minutes, I ran the bulk -19K - at an average pace of just under 5:00 per K.