April 30, 2012

Latest review for my ultrarunning novel

The Paperback Pursuer's Allizabeth Collins read and reviewed my novel From my Mother. Here's her verdict:

"I was quite taken back by how much this book actually moved me. It is a very touching and genuine story of love and survival from one generation to the next. I wasn't too crazy about the running aspect, but I quickly got over it, because the story-lines, (ultrarun and grandma Oma), meshed and flowed so well. I may not be a fan of running, but I felt like the two topics crossed-over and worked nicely together.

"The technical runner's language didn't distract from the stories of the two women, but made it stronger. Margreet Dietz is talented with words, and her experience with ultrarunning makes this a must-read for runners/athletes of all levels. It is a very motivational book, full of emotion - a marathon of words - that take the reader through the highs and lows of a family's past and present."

Find her review on The Paperback Pursuer, Goodreads and Amazon.

April 27, 2012

A 3-mile confidence booster

Last night I headed to the track for a VO2max session of 3 X 1-mile at 5K race pace.

Tim and Amy joined me, and we warmed up with a 4K run on the nearby trail.

While technically I was aiming for 90-second 400-metre laps, or 6:00 for 1600 metres, I was hoping to keep them all under 6:10. Two weeks ago I had done a set of 6 X 1200s, and wasn't able to hit the 90-seconds for the 3 laps. Instead of the 4:30 goal, I had run them in 4:40, 4:38, 4:37, 4:33, 4:35, 4:38 and 4:35.

Of course, I have begun my taper by now and should expect feel more rested.

About six weeks ago, on March 7, I had run 6 X 800s, doing them in 3:01, 2:56, 2:59, 2:58, 2:59 and 2:59. That compared with a year-earlier session (late March 2011) of 10 X 800s on the same track in 3:10, 3:11, 3:05, 3:10, 3:06, 3:04, 3:04, 3:04, 3:02 and 2:54.

In July 2011, I had done 6 X 800s in 3:06, 3:01, 2:59, 3:01, 3:01 and 3:01. 

Last night, I ran the first mile in 6:01 (Garmin had 6:03 for 1.62K), and was a little surprised. Wow, that didn't feel too bad. The second I finished in 5:49 (Garmin had 5:54 for 1.63K) with the third in 5:53. That was certainly better than I had expected, and a sign that my body is responding well to the taper. It's a great confidence booster with another eight days of tapering left.

Today I am running an easy 8K before heading off to see Dr Leah Stadelmann at Chief Chiro for my final pre-marathon ART treatment. 

April 23, 2012

Marathon taper week 1 of 3

The first week of my three-week taper for the Vancouver marathon on May 6 is complete. It went well, and I ran 110K all up. Technically this should have been a decrease of my training volume.

But with a few missed sessions because of illness and adjusting of the program to accommodate races, I have run less than I was supposed to in the previous three weeks (69K instead of 137K, 112K which was close to the 117K I was supposed to run, and 100K instead of 130K).

I already have three months of solid training under my belt, so I am not worried about the early drop in volume.

Monday through Friday went well, and I did all my sessions as planned. On Saturday I did a 10K race; I hadn't expected to do another after the Vancouver Sun Run the previous week but I found one that was in a convenient location (Stanley Park) with a 10am start.

The race was $20, with a $2.50 processing fee for registering online through the Running Room website. I knew that there was a chance the 10K was an approximate measure but the most important reason to do it was to get myself to race the distance, or something close to it.

I had brought the Garmin so I wouldn't feel unduly excited about a PB (or defeated if it happened to be long); since the course took us along the perimeter of Stanley Park which is 9.5K, I suspected that, if anything, the race would be short.

After a pre-race group prayer (a first I believe in my 15 years of racing), the organizers took us 300 metres back from the finish line for the start to get to 10K. With a 5K and a 10K, there must have been no more than 70 people. It was a young crowd.

I had positioned myself at the front. A couple of guys sprinted ahead. Great, people to chase. Unfortunately the chase didn't take long as I passed them just before we had covered the first kilometre.

Now it was up to me to push myself, so I tried to run as 'scared' as I could, assuming at least one of them was right behind me, waiting for me to slow down.

By now I have run the perimeter of Stanley Park many times in various races and of course love doing so; it's flat and the views are stunning. 

I had to slow down a couple of times for pedestrians, nothing major but it broke my rhythm. I also realized that there are a couple of zigzag gates that are removed for the bigger races. Again, nothing major, just a minor brake. I glanced at the Garmin from time to time to check my average pace. I felt good, just like last week, not great but definitely good.

Even though it was a small race, it was fun to run at the front. I didn't hear anyone running right behind me but wasn't going to check; if no one was close I might lose the motivation to push so I just tried to keep running as hard as I could.

With the finish line in sight, there were two ways of getting there. A green paper sign seemed to point to keep moving straight ahead, which made sense, so I did. Here was where I encountered the second zigzag gate, and then I got ready to sprint across the finish in 39:06. My Garmin said I had run 9.82K with an average heart rate of 168bpm (these days I rarely wear a heart rate monitor in races but I was curious and had opted to do so today).

At 3:59 per K, if the course was indeed 180 metres short, it was still a Sub-40 10K. Most importantly, it was another chance to practice the intensity of 10K race pace.

My sister and her partner were going to meet me at the finish; with the race starting at 10am, I had told my sister I'd be done 39 minutes later. But the start was postponed until 10:15am, and I had no chance of letting them know. When she showed up just before 10:39am, she asked one of the two people from the Running Room about it, explaining that I expected to be done in 39 minutes. They seemed skeptical, this was a small event after all. They told her about the postponed start.

By the time I finished, I didn't see Angelique. The man she had spoken with, meanwhile, asked if I had a sister and that she had been here earlier. I suspected she'd be back and went for a short cooldown jog in the area. She returned in the meantime, annoyed that they had taken a wrong turn in the park and missed my finish. The man saw her and told her that, as predicted, I had finished in 39:06. I later had a chat with him. He's a marathon legend (though he was of course too modest to tell me about that).   

I got back shortly, and Angelique encouraged me to stick around for the awards. I am glad I did as I received a pair of ASICS Cumulus for my efforts.

On Sunday, I went for a 27K run and was looking forward to meeting a new runner in town who had come across my website and sent me an email recently. We had agreed on a meeting point about 6K into my run and we shared the next 15K together, which was fantastic. She's a masters runner too, and I hope we can push each other along in training.

It was another solid week of training. In the next 7 days the volume drops to 87K.

April 20, 2012

A final 10K as the taper has begun

So, my taper for the BMO Vancouver Marathon has started. And with that, another marathon training campaign is almost done and dusted. While the hard yards have been taken care of, the final three weeks before the goal race are still challenging enough. As the total mileage per week decreases, the intensity in sessions is kept.

This week I'm running about 110K, including a 10K race on Saturday. It's a low-key event, I think, so I will bring Mr Garmin to verify the distance. Still, the benefit will be the effort, rather than the result. My plan is to build into it, and see where that takes me. As far as I can tell, it's a pretty flat lap around Stanley Park so that should be great.

As always, though especially in these final three weeks before the race, it's important to stay healthy, to rest as much as possible—mentally too, to eat and hydrate well, and to focus on the big day ahead.

Now is the time to prepare yourself to get the most out of the hard training you've done. It's time for visualization, to watch yourself running the goal you've set out to achieve.

"The most important use of visualization in running ... is to boost your confidence," writes Alberto Salazar in Alberto Salazar's Guide to Road Racing. "Psychological research has conclusively demonstrated that people who see themselves succeeding are more likely to do so than those who visualize themselves as failing." 

"However confident you may be a week before the race, doubts mount as the start draws near... Particularly worrisome are tiny aches and pains that you'd never noticed if you weren't thinking about the race."

My level of confidence about my running is high at the moment. I am a different runner than I was nearly four months ago on January 1; there's a renewed understanding of marathon training and my body's ability to progress. 

An athlete trains to progress to a new level of training; it's an adaptation that takes years. 

Races are part of that training. In this marathon build-up, I have raced three half marathons, and three 10Ks (including tomorrow's event). Both training and racing are skills an athlete needs to develop; you need to learn when to push and when it's better to hold back. I have run my two best half marathons by beginning them at marathon goal race pace, i.e. a slower starting pace.

Vancouver will be my 16th marathon. I expect it to be my best, for several reasons including the fact that I have run my fastest 10K and half marathon times in the past month. At each of those races—the First Half, the Sunshine Coast April Fool's Run and the Vancouver Sun Run—I have been inspired by other women, by now familiar faces though I don't know them.

Their performances excite me and it's superb to ride this wave of potential. I know some will be running the Vancouver marathon too. We're all training hard, aiming get the best out of ourselves, and when those efforts pay off, it's rewarding not just for the individual runner but for others too as it underpins the belief that anything's possible.

While there are no guarantees you can surge to the level of another runner, it serves to remove self-imposed limitations by lifting the bar of potential. 

By and large my training for Vancouver has gone well. In the last week of March, I missed more sessions than I would have liked but it wasn't a dramatic interruption of my training. For the month, I ran 489K—after 498K in January and 519K in February.  

So far in April, I have done weeks of 112K and 100K, before hopefully finishing up this one at about 110K as mentioned above with a 27K long run on Sunday.

April 16, 2012

Top 10 Masters Women in Sun Run

On Sunday, yesterday, I finished the Vancouver Sun Run 10K in 39:38.8, a personal best. It was a great day to race and there were plenty of fast people to follow.

I chose not to take splits, instead simply glancing at my watch at each of the K markers.

First corner - Photo by Tim Moore
The course starts with a fast first kilometre that includes a downhill section; I recall seeing 3:38 on my watch.

The only split I took was at 5K, which I reached in 19:53. That compared with 20:07 the previous year.

Photo by Rita Ivanauskas
I felt good, perhaps not great but definitely good. I was focused, and paced myself well, so I am pleased with how I raced.

Thanks to photographer, and 2:48 marathoner, Rita Ivanauskas for capturing my concentration (click here to see more of Rita's superb photographs).

It may seem a little greedy but I had hoped to finish in 39:30 or faster. Yet, as Tim reminded me at the finish, I cannot complain about (finally) improving on my previous 10K best, 39:51 which I ran in January 2008.

Sprint for finish
My time yesterday was good enough for 42nd woman overall (out of 21,497 female finishers) and 6th in my age group. Overall, I was 341st out of 38,752 finishers. See full results here.

Thanks to Tim for capturing my sprint for the finish from a bridge overlooking the final 100 metres of the course.

Most exciting though, it placed me in the Top 10 Masters Women, according to the Vancouver Sun. Those results are based on gun time (mine was 39:45), rather than chip time (39:39).  

It's only the third, perhaps fourth, time I have run Sub-40 for the 10K. And the reality is that I have been training to hold a fast pace for longer, rather than working on improving my top speed.

I have to be happy with my 10K result, as it clearly puts me on track to run a personal best for the marathon in three weeks. Whether I am on track to run 2:59, I am not sure.

A year ago I finished the Sun Run in what I believe to have been 40:07 (there was a mix-up with my timing chip), and ran the Vancouver marathon the next month in 3:07:41. That was in line with the prediction of Merv's Running Calculator.

Plugging my new PB of 39:39 into Merv's, it predicts a marathon of 3:05:02. However, it also predicts a half marathon of 88:08; this year I have run 87:27 and a PB of 86:54 (earlier this month). Based on those times, I could expect to run 3:03:35 and 3:02:25 respectively, according to Merv's.

The latter is a pace of 4:19 per kilometre.That's pretty close to the 4:16 required to run a Sub-3 marathon.

As the three-week taper begins today, I will take a closer look at the new Vancouver marathon course, which on paper should be a faster one than it was previously as there are fewer twists and turns, and a flatter profile. As I saw clearly in my two fastest half marathons, a cautious starting pace provides great results, and that's a lesson I want to apply as I decide on the starting pace for May 6.

I still believe I have a chance to run 2:59 in three weeks; yet I also want to choose a race pace that will allow me to make the most of my level of fitness on May 6.

April 12, 2012

After 102K in 4 days, a Sun Run mini-taper

In the past four days I have run 102K and am looking forward to a mini-taper in the next three days to rest up for the Vancouver Sun Run, the largest 10K in the world with 60,000 runners registered for the 2011 edition.

On Sunday, I ran 35K, followed on Monday by an easy 10K at recovery pace in the morning and another 7K in the afternoon.

Tuesday called for a VO2max session. I ran 11.5K from home to the dirt/gravel track on the other side of Squamish. There I did 6 X 1200 metre repeats, i.e. 6 X 3 laps around the track, at 5K race pace. I jogged an easy lap, 400m, between each interval.

I was pleased to run the 1200s in 4:40, 4:38, 4:37, 4:33. 4:38 and 4:35 on tired legs. Rest was between 2:23 and 3:33. While not quite the 4:30 I was supposed to do, I didn't want to dig super-deep as I preferred to save that mental strength for Sunday's 10K race.

Tim picked me up from the track and we went for a walk with Luka on the nearby trails, a perfect cooldown from this 21K session in the late afternoon. These types of intense workouts always scare me a little, but completing them is very satisfying.

The next morning I walked Luka for half an hour, a good warm-up, before heading out for a 24K run. It was cooler than the previous afternoon, which was nice. My legs felt light and energetic.

I covered the first 12K in 62:10, with a couple of stops to take a sip of the dark-brown Hammer Gel espresso & water mixture without spilling it all over my white shirt. My average heart rate was 135.

Heading back home, I picked up my pace and ran the next 10.14K in 48:54, or an average of 4:49 per K at 136bpm. This section included a stop as I ran into two female runners in their 60s who warned me about the bear they had just crossed paths with.

Since I felt good, I decided to maintain effort on a 1.3K section 'back up the hill' to Valleycliffe, taking 6:32 at 155 bpm, before slowing to cool down in the final 500m. Overall, I ran 5:01 for the 24K at an average heart rate of 136bpm.     

In the evening, Tim, Luka and I went for a 5K jog around the block to round up my four-day mileage to 102K.

In the next three days, I'll run between 31 and 37K (depending on whether I'll do a double run today as planned, or choose to do only one session) to recover for the Vancouver Sun Run on Sunday.

My plan is to improve my four-year-old 10K personal best, which is 39:51. I ran this 10K last year for the first time; I clocked 40:09 on my watch, and I'd like to think I can go quicker this weekend.

The Vancouver Sun Run 10K has a nice course profile
The course map for the Sun Run
I am very much looking forward to racing the Vancouver Sun Run as hard as I can.

April 10, 2012

On focus, determination & self-belief

There are 25 days left until the 2012 Vancouver marathon on May 6. Overall, my training has been superb. I have clear evidence of my progress, with two half marathon PBs. I am on track to achieve my goal to run 2:59 on May 6. Confidence doesn't guarantee success, however.

1970s Adler Triumph Tippa
For me, running and writing go very much hand in hand, though one is a hobby and the other is my profession. If you think I am serious about my running, I am far more ambitious with my writing.

Training to improve one's performance in marathon running is a breeze compared with working on becoming a better writer. One reason I am so determined to achieve the Sub-3 marathon is that it will sustain my ambition as a writer to aim for lofty goals. I want to become a household name, a bestselling and award-winning author.

But I have been struggling in the past six months in my attempts to work on the manuscript for my seventh book. I have been working very hard to discover what the book is that I am trying to write, but the manuscript remains elusive. And I worry about my lack of progress, which concerns me more as each week passes.

Tim told me yesterday he wants me to focus on one thing this month—running Sub-3.

While a manuscript has not yet taken shape, I write daily. A week ago, I was looking for a way to turn all the posts from my Blogger site into a one big text file. After some Googling, I came across Blog2Print.com and used it to create a PDF-file of my blog ($7.95) and then turned it into a Word document with text only.

The document has more than 200,000 words that chronicle much of my running over the past four years. I am cleaning it up so I can create a paperback record of it, just for me. As I have been working on it for the past week, it has already turned up memories I had forgotten, and brought others crystal-clear into focus.

Nothing is clearer from my blog than that the Sub-3 marathon has been on my mind for more than five years. In a post on January 13, 2009, I wrote about my goals for the year ahead.

While the start of the New Year is a great time to rethink your major goals, my athletic objectives don't change that often as I believe in big dreams.
            When I first broke 3:15 in the Gold Coast Marathon in July 2006, I was able to think that perhaps, possibly, one day I could run a marathon in less than 3 hours.
            Today—2-1/2 years and four marathons later—my main goal is still the same. I'm a lot closer now, having finished the [2008] Victoria Marathon in 3:07 three months ago.
            To run a marathon in just under 3 hours, you have to cover each of the 42.195K in 4 minutes 16 seconds. I am 7 minutes and 11 seconds away from 2:59:59, which at that pace is a distance of 1.69K.
            Based on my current fastest marathon pace, which was 4:26 per kilometre in Victoria, I need to speed up by 10 seconds per kilometre for each of the 42K. That's a BIG goal. And, while I'll never say never, I am not sure if I'll have gained that much additional speed come the Vancouver marathon on May 3  [2009]. It may take another four marathons, or maybe more.
Since that post three years ago, I have run another six marathons, three ultras (two 50-milers and one 100K), as well as a bunch of shorter races, and I am only 65 seconds closer to my goal with a marathon PB of 3:06:06. Yet I still believe, more than ever, that I will run a Sub-3 marathon. I have never felt more confident about my ability to do so.

There are no guarantees, just the desire and determination to keep training and trying.

In the superb Run to Overcome, Meb Keflezighi writes, "As every marathoner knows, you must prepare yourself for the journey. Without proper training, you will never finish. And even with proper training, you never know what will happen on race day. The weather, the course conditions, your own body—all may seem to conspire against you. 'If there is no struggle, there is no progress,' said the great American abolitionist Frederick Douglass. What an apt description of the marathon.

"Nothing is guaranteed, no matter how hard you've worked. Injuries are part of running; disappointments and setbacks are part of everyday life. But if you keep doing the right things, eventually the results will go your way. Winning in life doesn't happen when you overcome just one thing—do or die. It's persevering, knowing that difficulties are bumps in the road, not the end of the world. It's continuing to do the right things, knowing your time will come.

"Expect to succeed if you are committed and persevere."

Meb's book chronicles his life up until the 2009 New York City marathon; if you're a runner and/or marathoner, it is a must-read for sure. Meb, born in Eritrea in 1975, arrived with his family in the US at the age of 12. Showing great promise as a runner in high school, he won an Olympic silver medal in the 2004 Games in Athens.

Despite a stellar career he had yet to win a major marathon until he became the NYC marathon champion in 2009, defying some naysayers who had suggested he'd better think about retiring; he used the doubters to fuel his ambition on race day.

"At times I was fixated on the race [2009 NYC marathon], thinking mechanics, mechanics, mechanics. I wanted my shoulders down and back, my stride crisp, my body tall. Other times I was having nothing but career flashbacks. It was similar to Athens, where all my running acquaintances and experiences were passing through my mind. And there was a new dimension this time. I was also thinking of all the doubters and all the slights I had received."

Run to Overcome was released in October 2010, and Meb clearly believed he wasn't done yet. "I know I can run faster in the marathon, half marathon, and 10K. If those things don't happen though, so be it. I'll still be content with my productive and consistent career," he says in his book.

Since then, he ran his fastest marathon yet in the 2011 NYC marathon and then won the US Olympic Trial Marathon in January 2012 where he set another PB of 2:09:08 and, at age 36, became the oldest winner of the trials.

"... winning doesn't always mean getting first place; it means getting the best out of yourself," Meb says in Run to Overcome.

I will keep this in mind as I prepare for today's training session. It is a big one; a total of 19K, including 6 X 1200 metres at 5K pace. I'll run the 12K from home to the track to warm up for these repeats which I need to do in 4:30 each. This session scares me, in a good way. It's good to challenge yourself regularly.

It's a privilege to be able to pursue your dreams, whether on a global stage or a more modest one. In Advanced Marathoning, Deena Kastor who won a bronze medal in the 2004 Athens Olympic marathon and, like Meb, lives and trains in Mammoth Lakes, says, "We don't make sacrifices. If we truly love this sport, and we have these goals and dreams, they're not sacrifices. They're choices that we make to fulfill our goals and dreams." 

April 09, 2012

Final long run before Vancouver marathon

Yesterday I did a 35K run, four weeks out from the Vancouver marathon on May 6. My schedule had this final session over 30K a week later, but I am racing the Vancouver Sun Run 10K next week so I swapped around some sessions including this one.

As mentioned in my previous post, the past week was about recovering from my fastest half marathon ever. Then there is the cumulative fatigue from 12 weeks of record-volume training. On Saturday's 10K my energy was very low, and I struggled through the recovery run in 60 minutes.

I expected - and certainly hoped - to feel better for the 35K. We eased into the session, running the first 5K at 5:20/K before we slightly picked up the pace. Tim, who did six hours of cycling on the wind trainer in three days, turned around at 12K.

I was looking forward to the rest of the run. Listening to my iPod, I noticed how energetic my body felt, a stark contrast from the previous day. There was still a light tenderness in the quads and hammies, but nothing that prevented me from running as I pleased.

After 13.5K I turned onto Paradise Valley Road, which after another 1.5K turns into a spectacular section through lush rainforest. The moss-covered trees on both sides of the narrow road looked stunning on the warm and sunny April morning.

I turned around at 17.5K, having covered the previous 12.41K at an average 5:12/K while my heart pumped blood at an average 133 beats per minute.

It was time to pick up the pace; I ran the next 15.5K at 4:46/K and an average 143bpm, thinking about how much I love to run - and to train.

For the final 2K, which begins with 1K up the hill to get to Valleycliffe, I eased my effort to begin the cooldown and ran it at 5:31/K.

Arriving at home, Mr Garmin told me I had covered the 35K in 2:56:49, with an average heart rate of 142. I only carried a 500ml bottle of water and could have easily drunk more but chose to keep moving as I felt good. I also had a flask of Hammer Gel for nutrition.

It was an awesome long run that showed I have recovered well from last week's race. Since the start of the year, my longest runs - 30K and more - have been 32K (Jan 29); 30K (Feb 5); 35K (Feb 26); 30K (March 3); 39K on March 18 and yesterday's 35K.

Next weekend I won't run long because of Sunday's 10K race. And the remaining Sunday runs are less than 30K.

My total mileage for last week came to 112K and included a rest day on Tuesday.

April 08, 2012

Recovering from half marathon

Wednesday's muscle release treatment from Chief Chiro's Dr Leah Stadelmann worked wonders—it never ceases to amaze me how much this Active Release Techniques therapy can do for your body.

My first week as an 86-minute half marathoner has been focused on recovering from the effort.

My strategy in last Sunday's 2012 Sunshine Coast half marathon of conserving energy when running uphill by sustaining effort, rather than pace, and using the free speed on the down hills by moving as quickly as gravity let me without extra effort had, not surprisingly, taking a toll on my quads and hamstrings.

It was, of course, a small price to pay for improving my fastest time for 21.1K to 86:54. The age-graded score for my performance is 79.64%, moving towards national class level. A runner's age-graded score is the ratio of the approximate world-record time for your age and gender divided by your actual time.

Age-graded scores have been categorized into these broad achievement levels, with 100% = Approximate World Record Level; over 90% = World Class; over 80% = National Class; over 70% = Regional Class; and over 60% = Local Class. 

On Monday I ran a very slow 10K, sticking to soft trails as much as possible. I walked any incline. It was good to get the blood flowing but I decided to skip the afternoon's 6K.

On Tuesday, my legs were more stiff and sore than the day before, which is typical in delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), so I took the day off.

Of course I had managed to Google an article online about a marathon runner who didn't recover in the five weeks between smashing his quads in a tune-up event before the goal race. I can be completely carefree, or worry like crazy; when I told Tim about this story and wondered out loud whether I had ruined my chances for the Vancouver marathon, he just gave me a look and started laughing. "You're fine," he said.

And I knew he was right.

However, the soreness in my quads was no laughing matter. Tuesday was my fourth day off in eight days; I soaked those battered limbs in a hot bath with Epsom salts instead.

On Wednesday morning, I still had to move carefully on an easy 14K. Again, I made sure to stay mostly on soft ground, taking walk breaks on the down hills to spare the quads.

Two hours later, Dr Leah Stadelmann at Chief Chiro worked almost an hour on getting my body back in shape. When I visit her, I typically point to my calves and glutes as the main problem points—this time her focus was on my quadriceps and hamstrings. 

She expertly worked on restoring my legs and lower back, starting with the left quad and then moving to on the right, before flipping me on my side to release those just-as tight hammies. As usual, the treatment was at times uncomfortable, but never painful; she knows exactly how much strength to use, and always double-checks if I flinch.

After she got me to lie on my stomach, she dug further into my hamstrings and upper calves, before releasing my lower back. I felt so much better after her treatment, she's fantastic.

In the evening, I went for a 45-minute walk with Tim and Luka on the trails as Leah had recommended.

The following day, I woke up with a much-restored body and looked forward to a double run. I ran 24K in the morning, sticking to the slower end of my long run pace, followed by 6K at recovery pace in the afternoon.

On Friday, I did 13K, again at recovery pace and on Saturday, I did another 10K.

Today, Sunday, is my last long run exceeding 30K before the Vancouver marathon, and my plan is to run 35K. Four weeks to go!

April 03, 2012

A unexpectedly light week of 69K

Last week had its ups and downs. It certainly the lowest volume this year after 12 very consistent weeks of preparations for the BMO Vancouver Marathon on May 6.

On Monday I ran an easy 10K, but skipped the afternoon 6K.

Tuesday was the second day in 2012 I did not run.

Wednesday had a solid workout with 20K including 6 X 1K repeats on the track in between 3:44 and 3:48.

On Thursday I was floored by what I believe to have been dehydration.

On Friday I was better but not good enough to go for a run.

On Saturday I ran an easy 11K and felt much, much better after plenty of rehydration and the rest.

On Sunday, I raced the Sunshine Coast April Fool's Run half marathon in a personal best of 86:54. My warmup and cooldown were about 6K, so a total of 27K for the day.

That brought the weekly total to 69K, a little short of the 137K that was on the menu.

I am not worried by the missed sessions, though of course I would have preferred to have been able to run them. The previous 12 weeks of training have been so consistent; a second half marathon PB in less than two months shows it's paying off.

April 02, 2012

Best half marathon yet at Sunshine Coast

Sometimes it takes four years to improve on a personal best for a distance, sometimes it takes only seven weeks.

In April 2008, I ran 88:13 in the Sunshine Coast April Fool's Run, a certified half marathon distance. Aside from the 88:30 I ran in the June 2010 Scotiabank Half Marathon in Vancouver, I didn't manage to get under 89 again, or even 89:30 for that matter (89:39, 89:44 and 89:46) until the First Half Marathon seven weeks ago.

At the First Half in February I ran 87:27, my first improvement on the 21.1-kilometre distance in almost four years—and by 46 seconds. Wow.

After my dehydration fiasco earlier in the week, I wasn't sure what to expect for the Sunshine Coast half marathon on Sunday. I hoped that the forced days of rest on Thursday and Friday would have helped; at least I felt normal again on an easy pre-race 11K run on Saturday.

My goal for the race had been to do another marathon goal race pace run, aiming for 4:15/K, or a time of just under 90 minutes.

However, looking at my splits for this race four years ago, I realized that the undulations of this course made it a little challenging to aim for a steady pace per kilometre. Then there was the lure of another 87-minute time, perhaps even a PB.

My plan was to stay within a certain comfort zone; it would still be a challenging effort, but comfortable compared with the 10K of last weekend.

As had been forecast, there was wet snow when I walked Luka in the dark at 5:30am in Squamish on race morning and it was raining steadily as we drove toward Horseshoe Bay at 6:15am.

However, when we got to the ferry about 40 minutes later the weather had cleared. By the time the school buses had driven us from the ferry in Langdale to the race start in Gibsons, conditions were perfect; cool and dry.

We had about half an hour to pick up our race packages and do a warm-up; we ran about 2K and did three strides. Perfect. Then it was time to start.

It didn't take long to settle into a rhythm that felt good. I focused on conserving energy on the up hills and using all the free speed I could get on the down hills (hence, my fastest split being a 3:38).

Here's my race in numbers—I didn't press my watch hard enough a couple of times, hence the longer ones, and I stopped taking splits after 16K, though checked my watch at 17K and remember seeing 1:13 though I don't know the seconds.

From my kilometre splits you might think my pace was all over the place but that's just the nature of the course. I felt I ran a very well-paced race and focused on sustaining a steady effort: 4:10, 8:00, 4:17, 4:21 (5K in 20:48), 4:18, 8:00, 3:38, 4:16 (10K in 41:00), 4:11.8, 4:04, 3:58, 4:07, 4:29 (15K in 61:49), 4:43. At 16K, I had taken 66:32, or an average pace of 4:09.5.

I ran the remaining 5.1K in 20:22, or an average pace of 3:59.6, still maintaining my strategy of conserving energy on the final 1.5K left of the main 3K hill and using gravity on the way down—you can imagine what my quads feel like today hammering those down hills:-).

I crossed the finish in 86:54, another personal best by 33 seconds. W o w!

Running my second half marathon PB in less than two months gives me a lot of confidence that the training I have chosen since July last year is the right path for me; I have barely had time to wrap my head around the 87:27, and now my best time starts with 86.

I couldn't have asked for better motivation in the final five weeks of training until the BMO Vancouver Marathon on May 6.

My next, and probably final, race before then is the Vancouver Sun Run 10K on April 15, where I am hoping to improve my 39:51 PB, set all the way back in January 2008. Since then, I've run Sub-40 only once, in March 2008 when I did 39:55, though I've run close to 40 minutes a few times.

In the 2011 Sun Run I ran 40:09, according to my watch, but found out afterward that my timing chip had been mixed up with someone else's from the Pacific Newspaper Group Pacers team. I believe my official time, listed under another name, was 40:07. It was the closest I have come to 40 minutes in three years. I ran 40:15 at the Squamish 10K in August that year.

The other Squamish runners had solid races too; Tim ran his second-fastest half marathon (his PB is 89:06 from 2009), and his 90:10 earned him third place in the 45-59 age group. Next up for him is a 10K in Toronto in three weeks. 

Volker proved he's getting in shape for another Sub-3 marathon next month with a swift 84:44, after running the First Half seven weeks ago in 87:23.

Zoe earned her first Sub-90 half marathon with an excellent 89:29 finish.

Sean, who has spent most of his winter coaching a soccer team, was pleased to kick off his running season with a 91:01.

Last but not least, Heather who did her first half marathon in 2011 earned 3rd place in the 60-64 division.

This was the 35th edition of this annual event and, just like Tim and I remembered from four years ago, it was superbly organized. If you haven't tried this scenic race, I would highly recommend you do next year.

Overall winners were David Palermo in a blistering 70:57, or 3:22 per K, and Lisa Brooking in a swift 81:56. For full results, click here.