June 22, 2012

Getting ready to race 21.1K

While I am not so sure how venture capitalist Kevin O'Leary, Mr Wonderful from Dragon's Den and Shark Tank, became my Active Release Techniques therapist, I completely understand why I flew into a rage when he had the nerve to call me less than an hour before my treatment to cancel it. I was so mad that I lacked sufficient energy to express it to him, though I tried hard.

"How dare you, Kevin O'Leary, cancel this session I so desperately need before Sunday's Scotiabank Half Marathon?" I yelled into the phone. He didn't seem to care, so I hung up on him to find someone else to release those tight running muscles but now everything was going against me still; moving as in slow motion, I just couldn't get there in time.

Suddenly it was 9:59am and there was no way I could not make the 10am appointment with another ART therapist, I cannot remember who, by the time I woke up.

A strange dream indeed but it shows I was very much looking forward to today's 10am appointment with my truly wonderful sponsor Chief Chiro. Last week I took four - yes f o u r - days off running as I did not like the increasing level of tightness in my Achilles.

On the fifth day, Monday, Chief Chiro's Dr Paul Fleming released a whole bunch of tightness in both my calves, especially the right one, and,  importantly, gave me the all clear to try a run later that day. He also assured me I did not have Achilles tendinitis or tendinosis as I feared the symptoms in my right calf had been indicating in the past week or so.

Achilles problems have the potential to get very scary and should not be ignored by any runner, which is why I was both extremely cautious and worried.

Trusting, and relieved at, his professional opinion, and raring to go for a run after four days off, I did 19K that same evening including 8K at 4:10 pace. Naturally, I felt somewhat tired on Tuesday's easy 10-11K.

On Wednesday it was time for the fifth weekly John Hill speed workout. Meeting on the track, I was reminded of the previous session we did there with him two weeks ago: 10 400s with 200m jogging recovery. I had suffered through that one, for several reasons including some that had nothing to do with running though had eroded my mental endurance, as I ran the laps in as fast as 76 seconds and no slower than 81 seconds.

We did a 20-minute warm-up of easy jogging around the dirt track, curious to find out what John had planned for us this time. It was 5 400s with a 400m jogging recovery. The first 400 was meant to be a warm-up, run at about the same pace as we had in the previous session of 400s, before then speeding up for the next four repeats.

John's goal for mine was to do the first in 77-78 seconds, and then speed up to 72-73 per lap for the next four repeats. Woah.

As a final warm-up, he had us all do 4 striders which in this case meant about 75 metres of sprinting; we eased into the first one and then did all-out efforts for the next three striders.

For the main set, like in the previous session, we were divided in two groups. A few boys were keen and started fast, too fast for my goal I felt, so I hung back and finished my first lap right on target in 78 seconds. I felt tight overall and that first 400 in 78 seemed a struggle. 

The second one, while faster, felt much better, and I was pleased to run the next 4 400s in 73-74. While a hard effort, it felt so much easier than those 10 400s had and it was done before I realized it. I knew I had paced myself well, leaving something in the tank.

Physically, there was a lot of tightness in my back and my running felt very ugly in the final 200 metres of the final hard lap, constricting my movements. The tightness was also in my lower legs, though - as Paul had - said, not in my Achilles. The tightness had shifted to the lower inside heel of my right leg, a good sign indeed, I thought.

John had us do a cooldown that included 4 200s at 10K race pace, which was nice. Speed is relative.

Besides tight and stiff, I felt great after these 400s. Never before have I run around the track at sub-75 seconds. And I'm sure I can learn to run 400s faster. The thought crossed my mind that if, and that's a big if, I could run four consecutive such laps, I could do a 4:59 mile. That would be pretty cool.

I have never raced on the track. Perhaps it is time to try and see whether a sub-5 mile is a goal worth pursuing. I'll ask John about that next Wednesday.

First things first, getting ready for Sunday's Scotiabank Half Marathon! 

Yesterday, Thursday, I ran an easy 8.5K and was very grateful I'd be seeing Chief Chiro's Dr Leah Stadelmann the next day for a treatment, as evidenced by my weird dreams last night.

She did a superb job this morning, working on everything from my back to my glutes, lower legs and feet. I am not exaggerating when I say that my body feels brand new, amazing! That, importantly, also helps the mental attitude, i.e. confidence, I feel towards the race.

Like last year, I have an elite starting spot for this half. I hope to race better, though, as I was very disappointed with my 89:44 a year ago. It's hard to gauge how half-marathon race fit I am at the moment, as I had a break after the Vancouver marathon, then got started on a different type of training.

Since the May 6 marathon I have yet to do a week of 60K, about half of what I was running each week on average in the first four months of the year, but I have run faster than ever for 400m (73 seconds), the mile (5:42 on the road), and 2 miles (12:12) on the road. None of those were single, all-out efforts but part of a set of repeats. 

Two weeks ago I ran an undulating 10K in 40:02, though did not feel I paced that one well on a course I covered for the first time. 

I am aiming for a Sub-87 on Sunday, hoping to improve the 86:57 PB I ran in the Sunshine Coast half in April. We'll see if the body agrees.

For the occasion I have (finally) bought a new race top, another Zoot, in bright pink and orange thanks to the prize I got for winning a 10K in Stanley Park in April. The 10K was sponsored by Sport Chek, so thank you.

Points for discovering this Zoot number go to Tim. The dark purple Zoot top I bought in 2007 when I still lived in Sydney, Australia, has been my attire in most races since, so it was high time for a change of outfit!

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